Meet the stars of the 2013 America's Thanksgiving Parade
Updated On: Nov 26 2013 06:39:12 PM EST
Ten years ago, Ruben Studdard’s life changed in an instant when he won American Idol and it’s been changing ever since. of Ruben’s fourth album, Love IS (Hickory Records/19 Recordings) is helmed by two of the most successful producers in the business, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Since its release, Love IS has been celebrated for its collection of love songs. Vibe says “The "velvet teddy bear" can belt billowing love songs” and Entertainment Weekly called the album a "mix of crafty originals and sturdy covers".
? Winner of 2003 American Idol
? Grammy Award Nominee
? American Music Award Nominee
? 3 of his 4 albums are RIAA Certified Platinum or Gold
? Single “Flying Without Wings” sold Triple Platinum
? New album – Letters from Birmingham – debuted #1 on iTunes
Ruben Studdard was born Sept. 12, 1978, in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was stationed in the United States Army. Ruben was nine months old when his mother brought him home to Birmingham. His musical talent was evident early in life: he was a three-year-old pre-schooler when he started singing at the Rising Star Baptist Church. As a member of the Cherub Choir, he sang a majority of the solo vocals, making his debut with “I’m Yours Lord.” By the age of seven he was singing at school, in various churches and at banquets and local functions. His mother was a fan of Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and the O’Jays and Ruben learned to sing their songs. “I was the number one New Edition fan and in middle school I switched over to Boyz II Men. My father bought a lot of records, and that’s how I heard John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I became a big jazz fan.” In high school, Ruben joined the football team as an offensive tackle.
“I loved to sing and play sports so I went back and forth between the two,” he recalls. “But sports were just recreation for me. I became serious about singing and learning everything I could about music.”
Ruben majored in music at Alabama A&M University where his studies included opera.
“Can you believe that!” he exclaims. “I loved Pavarotti and I worked very hard at becoming an opera singer. I was going to get an agent but in my sophomore year I joined a gospel group, God’s Gift. I left school after two-and-a-half years to pursue a career in gospel music. We worked at it seven days a week. It seemed like it was about to happen. Then everything came to a standstill.”
Ruben moved on, joining a group called Just a Few Cats.
“A girl who was one of our background singers wanted to audition for ‘American Idol’ but she didn’t want to go by herself,” Ruben remembers. “She asked me to go with her and I didn’t want to, but I went just to support her.”
They drove to Nashville and she didn’t make it through to the second round of auditions. But Ruben did.
“Once I was actually there trying out, I felt like I could really do something. I just gave it my best shot.”
Hollywood, where he advanced from a semi-final round into the top 12 and quickly became America’s favorite, surviving every elimination to win the title of “American Idol” in a dramatic finale on May 21, 2003.
Ruben’s impact on the charts was immediate. His single “Flying Without Wings” debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100 while his version of “Superstar” peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart. In December 2003, his first album, “Soulful,” had advance orders of over a million copies, automatically qualifying for platinum certification. The record entered The Billboard 200 at No. 1. A follow-up single, “Sorry 2004,” reached No. 9 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart.
Kenichi Ebina is a solo self-taught dance performer who started out dancing Freestyle HipHop and expanding his style to Poppin’, Lockin’, Mime, House, Jazz, Contemporary and Ethnic dance. Kenichi’s unique dance show, with illusion sound, light and visual effects, entertains a lot of people who are not even interested in performing arts. In 2001, Kenichi founded a dance group with all Japanese dancers, BiTriP.
BiTriP won 1st place in the grand championship of “Amateur Night” at the world famous Apollo Theater in 2001. In 2007, Kenichi appeared on a dance contest in “Showtime at the Apollo” as a solo performer and became the grand champion of the 2007 season after winning 7 times. Kenichi is the only two-time grand champion in Apollo theater history. In 2013, Kenichi won America's Got Talent season 8. Kenichi has performed at many events, TV shows and has taught in the USA, Europe, Russia, China, Korea, Singapore, Japan, Morocco and Australia. Kenichi has also performed, directed and choreographed for many projects and dance and theater companies.
Melissa Fleis is an American fashion designer currently based in San Francisco, California. Since receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan, as well as her Master of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art University, Melissa has been committed to launching her self-titled brand. After studying with former Alexander McQueen advisor Simon Ungless, at the Academy of Art, Melissa spent her Fall / Winter 2012 season in Lucca, Italy interning under Italian fashion designer Alessandra Marchi. Shortly afterwards, Melissa was selected to participate in Lifetime’s Project Runway Season 10, where she later went on to show her collection as a finalist in the "top three" at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Having always been fascinated with German art movements such as Bauhaus, and Dada - Fleis combines her bold, architectural silhouettes with a modern, artisanal edge. Melissa has been focusing her recent efforts on creating a collection of handmade leather garments and accessories - as well as building her brand through various fashion shows, gallery events, collaborations, and educational workshops. She spends the rest of her time creating custom made-to-measure garments for select clients. Melissa designs her clothing for the contemporary woman, as well as herself.
Roary is the official mascot of the Detroit Lions and spokeslion for the Detroit Lions Kids Club. Roary attends elementary schools all over the state of Michigan as part of the “Lions’ Leaders for Life” Educational School Assembly Program, a high-energy character education program designed to discuss six qualities it takes to become a successful leader. Roary likes to live on the edge and is quite the adventurist! He has been known to ride mechanical bulls, tube down a ski hill and water ski. There isn’t anything Roary won’t do. This past off-season, Roary was committed to creating a “new look” Roary. He wanted to become a bit more agile, quicker, and stronger looking, just like the new Lions logo. He’s done just that. Enjoy the transformation of Roary, the “New” King of the Jungle!
A celebration of wonder, enchantment and delight, Santa Claus is one of the most beloved figures in the history of mankind. Santa is equally an emblem of generosity, kindness and good will towards man. Adored by children of all lands, Santa indeed keeps the child alive in all of us and does so with humor and warmth. Santa Claus continues to create instantaneous mirth and joy. He brings out our best selves and has given that gift repeatedly to generations of children throughout time.
In the eight years (2003-2012) that Chef Douglas Keane owned and operated his flagship restaurant, Cyrus, in Sonoma County, he amassed a litany of local and national awards. For seven consecutive years he maintained both two stars from The Michelin Guide and four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a James Beard Award for Best Chef Pacific, Esquire Magazine Chef of the Year and Gourmet Magazine's Top 50 Restaurants in America, to name just a few. His cooking follows a simple philosophy, Shibumi, that he learned from his travels in Japan. Shibumi is a Japanese word meaning refined simplicity, simple elegance, unobtrusive beauty, and quiet perfection. While currently searching for a new home for Cyrus, Douglas oversees the Healdsburg Bar and Grill, a casual American burger joint. He spends an equal amount of time on his other passion in life, dog rescue. He helped start Green Dog Rescue Project in Sonoma County and remains active and hands on day to day in training and rehabilitating his four legged friends. If Douglas is not cooking on any given day, the Dearborn, Michigan native can be seen driving three or four dogs around idyllic Sonoma Wine Country in his 1997 Ford pick up truck. Douglas has appeared on Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen as a judge but with his current hiatus from Cyrus he decided to take the plunge as a contestant on Top Chef Masters.
Garrett Clayton stars as Tanner, the sun-bleached surf star of a classic teen beach movie, "Wet Side Story," where Mack and Brady find themselves mysteriously trapped, in the Disney Channel Original Movie "Teen Beach Movie." An actor, singer and dancer, Clayton's television credits include roles on Disney Channel's "Shake It Up" and in "Days of our Lives." He can also been seen in the independent films "Love, Gloria" and "What's Wrong with Virginia." Most recently he led a talented cast in the Lifetime TV movie "Holiday Spin," opposite Ralph Macchio. Raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Clayton performed in regional theater productions of "High School Musical 2," "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," "Peter Pan" and "Beauty and the Beast." He has also appeared in numerous print ads and has modeled for companies including Guess.
Sixto Rodriguez is a Mexican-American folk musician, born in 1942 in Detroit, Michigan. In most of his songs he takes a political stance on the cruelties facing the inner city poor. In 1976 he released the single entitled “I’ll Slip Away” through the small record label Impact. He did not produce anything for another three years until he was signed with Sussex Records. Rodriguez recorded two albums with Sussex -- Cold Fact in 1970, and Coming from Reality in 1971. But after mixed reviews and low album sales he was dropped from the label, which later folded in 1975. After failing to make an impact in North America, he gave up his career as a musician. However, although he was relatively unknown in his home country, by the mid-70s his albums were starting to gain airplay in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. After imported copies of his Sussex albums ran dry, an Australian record label, Blue Goose Music, bought the Australian rights to his back catalogue in the mid-70s. The label released his two studio albums plus a compilation album “At His Best” (featuring unreleased recordings from 1976 Can’t Get Away, I’ll Slip Away, and Street Boy). Unbeknownst to Rodriguez, it went platinum in South Africa, where he achieved cult status. South Africa at one stage was the major disk-press interest supplying his music to the rest of the world.
Grammy winning songwriter Allee Willis has sold over 50,000,000 records with songs that have topped the R&B, Pop, Jazz, Country and Radio Airplay charts, including Earth, Wind And Fire's September and Boogie Wonderland, The Pointer Sisters' Neutron Dance, Dusty Springfield's What Have I Done To Deserve This? and Maxine Nightengale's Lead Me On. Willis won a Grammy for Best Soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop and was nominated for an Emmy for I'll Be There For You, the theme from Friends, one of the best-selling television themes of all time. She's collaborated with Motown legend Lamont Dozier. Willis is also an award-winning artist, set designer, interactive-multimedia artist, writer and director. She has collaborated with Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner on lilytomlin.com, a non-linear exploration of their Tony winning The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life…. In the field of new media, Willis has consulted for Intel, Microsoft, America Online, Disney and Warner Brothers. Representing 3,000,000 BMI songwriters, she also addressed the U.S. House of Representatives on artist rights in cyberspace. As her alter-ego Bubbles the artist, Willis has sold over 1000 paintings and handmade ceramics.
Sarah Lenore, a Detroit native, finally made the long move to Nashville in August 2007. Since performing as an 8-year-old in the National Broadway touring musical “Showboat,” starring Tom Bosley, at the Masonic Temple in 1997, Sarah has done it all in Michigan: national anthems for the Detroit Lions, Pistons, NASCAR, and even Vice President Dick Cheney. She was national runner-up at the 2004 Colgate Country Showdown in Orlando, Florida, has done TV appearances, and is a regular guest on Detroit’s number one country station 99. 5 WYCD. The Sarah Lenore Band has performed all over the Midwest, opening for national acts such as Travis Tritt, Joe Nichols, Sammy Kershaw, Danielle Peck, and Jason Aldean. Sarah has also performed on stage with LeAnn Rimes, Lonestar, and Hank Williams Jr. Sarah has made quite a splash on Nashville’s music scene already. She cannot walk down Broadway without someone calling her name. She is a regular performer at venues such as Tootsies, Fiddle and Steel, and the 2nd Fiddle. An accomplished guitarist and pianist, Sarah also spends a lot of time writing with some of Nashville’s legendary songwriters.
Williams is a Saline native and the winner of the 2009 Miss Michigan's Outstanding Teen competition and Miss Michigan 2013. She currently attends the University of Alabama, where she twirls batons at football games. She is pursuing a public relations degree and an art history minor, with hopes of working in sports after graduation. Williams said she plans to take a break from school for a year and return after her reign is over. Williams said she is looking forward to sharing her platform, "Through a Child's Eyes: Conquering Childhood Grief," in the upcoming year. "My platform is about kids overcoming tragedy and realizing that they can still live a happy life, regardless of the traumatic experiences they've had as a child."
A Detroit native and Renaissance High School graduate, Angel has been named Miss Black Michigan USA 2014. As Miss Black USA Michigan, Mills has been assigned an official platform, "Ladies must Lead," to address issues facing women, including the increasing number of women running for public office, teaching young girls to be professionally savvy and promoting women's health. Mills plans to graduate from Howard University in May of 2014 and pursue a broadcast journalism career.
Paws is the official mascot of the Detroit Tigers. His favorite meal at Comerica Park includes hot dogs with ketchup, pepperoni pizza and some Aquafina water to wash it down! His hobbies include collecting baseball cards, playing fantasy baseball and running and playing with friends. His favorite activities are cheering on the Tigers at every home game! He also enjoys visiting schools, malls and special events all around the city!
Hooper is the official mascot of the Detroit Pistons. His best trick shot is the behind-the-back halfcourt shot. He loves everything Michael Jackson, Eminem, Kid Rock, and Bob Seger. His hobbies include skydiving, magic, unicycling, reading and hanging out with Pistons fans.
"Russ Russell asked me to spearhead a Christmas album project for Holy Cross, and I think it only took about ten minutes to say yes. Holy Cross is doing some amazing things and they deserve all the help we can give them. The first thing I did was bring Mark and Brian Pastoria to the project. I wasn't sure how many performers would jump on board, but it turned out they were just like me -- easily won over to this marvelous cause. This album is about partnership which is why I love the three songs of mine that are on the disc. They're all partnerships with people I really love and admire -- Jill Jack, Karen Newman, Stewart Francke and Jeff Daniels. I'm just tickled with what we put together in a ridiculously short period of time. We're really proud of it, and I hope Holy Cross is, too."
-- Devin Scillian