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How To Take A Picture-Perfect Presidential Selfie

How To Take A Picture-Perfect Presidential Selfie

JULY 09, 2015 5:11 PM ET


"Pics or it didn't happen" is a common refrain these days. You can't just experience life. You have to document it. And so, when fans line up to shake hands with a presidential candidate, that handshake often really isn't enough. It's all about the selfie — a self portrait shot from a cell phone. And candidates are being deluged with selfie seekers on the trail.

Selfies are "a part of American culture" and, for candidates, taking them has to be part of a broader digital campaign strategy, said Brian Donahue, founder and CEO of Craft Media Digital, a political communications firm.

"The point or the objective is really to expand your message and expand your audiences," he said. "I think selfies are a really exciting visual way to show support and say that this is a candidate that I'm behind, I'm excited about. I want to share that in my own social network."

Clay Aiken, American Idol turned 2014 congressional candidate, was a master of the campaign selfie. He even had a hashtag — #SelfieswithClay.

Now, he didn't win his race. It wasn't even close. But Aiken had the selfie down to a science. Rather than waiting for people to figure out their camera phones and fumble around. He'd just grab it and shoot himself.

"I started doing it because everybody has the same phones but nobody knows how to use anybody else's, so it was just easier for me to take them myself," he told me last Fall.

And as a result, he had a certain amount of control over the angle.

"I can always do it and make myself look like you can't see all the chins I've added from eating so much," he said.

That's right candidates, when executed correctly — shot from just above eye level — a selfie can be slimming.

For more advice on the perfect selfie, I turned to an expert from outside the political world — Stephanie Saltzman, associate digital editor for allure.com.

She's the author of an article called "How to Look Good in a Selfie," which includes advice like: find the best lighting, and consider your background. Another one, be yourself.

"I think as long as it seems genuine, you know, like a real smile. And just sort of like you're having fun with it, then it's going to be flattering and it's going to something that reads well to the public," she said.

Maggie Fitzgerald says she started out taking selfies with a regular smile. Now she makes goofy faces. Her advice: "go in with a great attitude because it does make an impression."

If there were a record for most selfies taken with 2016 presidential candidates Maggie Fitzgerald might hold it. She's a state lobbyist based in Des Moines with easy access to candidates — so she's taken selfies with everyone from Hillary Clinton to Scott Walker and Donald Trump.

She started out doing a normal smile. Now she makes goofy faces in her selfies with presidential candidates. And she has a suggestion for them: "I would say go in with a great attitude because it does make an impression," she said.

There's one candidate, who she wouldn't name, who she said had a bad attitude.

"I know it sounds stupid, but it's not that I'm going to — whoever takes the best selfie or whoever comes in with the best attitude I'll caucus for. It's more of, are you a jerk to everybody?" she said.

The bottom line, said Saltzman from Allure: just embrace it.

"If you try to fight it, you're going to look awkward and like you're just very out of touch."

Or as the borg said on Star Trek — resistance is futile.

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'American Idol' Clay Aiken Looks For the Next Idol in Philadelphia

'American Idol' Clay Aiken Looks For the Next Idol in Philadelphia

By Michele Amabile Angermiller | August 02, 2015 1:00 PM EDT


Clay Aiken photographed in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 4, 2014. Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images

"I am looking forward to finding that 15th Idol at my table this year," he said.

When thousands of aspiring vocalists lined up for their last chance at becoming the 15th and final American Idol in Philadelphia, they got encouragement from one of the franchise's biggest stars: Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken.

Aiken was on hand to work at one of the judges' table and lend his ears to the process of discovering the last ever Idol winner. Singers selected at the Saturday, Aug. 1, auditions will get the opportunity to advance and perform in front of Idoljudges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban at a later round.

"It is very full in here," Aiken told Billboard. "I'm a little nervous. This is a big deal in the life of everybody in this room."

Aiken tried to put everyone at ease, but gave them a good pep talk. "You have to be yourself," he told the crowd.

He said the more successful people off the show did not come in "pretending they knew what a pop star was."

"None of them came in fabricating a personae," he said. "I certainly didn't. Ruben Studdard didn't. Kelly Clarkson didn't. Carrie Underwood didn't. They all came in and were themselves. A lot of people walk up to these tables dressed up and think they know what a pop star is, and that's the death knell in some ways."

Surveying the faces in the room at Philadelphia's Liacouras Center brought back memories of his audition 13 years ago, he said.

"I didn't know then how big of a deal it would be for me," he said. "I didn't know 13 years ago on the streets of Atlanta how life changing it would be. The people in this room have seen this show for 15 years. They know how big of a deal it is, and I think that's a big difference."

Aiken -- who recently ran for Congress in North Carolina and chronicled the whole process in the Esquire series, The Runner-Up -- said that hopefuls having seen Clarkson, Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino and Underwood come off the show and having something "really big happen to them on the back of this show" heightens anxiety.

"I was nervous myself, but these folks are going to be even more nervous because they know what at stake," Aiken said.

He added that the stakes are high for the producers on the floor, too.

"One producer every year can claim that they are the one that is the first person who puts the winner through," the 36-year old alum said. "The person who put me through still works on the show. The person who put Fantasia through still works on the show. And they get to have bragging rights."

That said: Aiken said he wants to be the one to have that honor, and is in a friendly competition with Season 2 winner Studdard, who was on hand putting talent through on the floor at the auditions in Savannah, Georgia.

"As if we hadn't competed enough already," he laughed. "He and I are competing with each other. We are both insistent that we are going to be the ones that find the next American Idol. I am looking forward to finding that 15th Idol at my table this year."

And what would it take to catch Aiken's ear?

"I like all different kinds of voices," he said. "There is a little bit of a spark in people who have great talent and don't realize it. They have a little bit of quiet confidence within them, but aren't trying. That is what is attractive to me. I personally gravitate and audiences gravitate towards people who are slightly more humble with their talent. I am hoping for someone who is great and doesn't really know it."

When asked if the ending of American Idol is bittersweet, the Broadway star couldn't help quoting the show Pippen, saying "everything has its season."

"In 15 years they have discovered people who are going to be around far longer than the show will, and no other show on television can say that," he said. "I don't believe that The Voice can say that. I don't believe America's Got Talent can say that. I don't believe The Last Comic Standing can't say that. But you certainly have Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood who are going to carry the mantle ofAmerican Idol for decades. The fact that the show is going off the air will not diminish its power in American history."

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Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: 'Anybody Who Discounts Him Is Shortsighted'

Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: 'Anybody Who Discounts Him Is Shortsighted'

By Michele Amabile Angermiller | August 02, 2015 4:55 PM EDT

clay-aiken-650-430.jpgGetty Images

Donald Trump’s run for President has been making headlines, but former political candidate and Apprentice star Clay Aiken says don’t count him out yet.

“Anybody who discounts him is shortsighted,” said Aiken, who ran for a North Carolina congressional seat in 2014. “I don’t think anybody should discount him. Nobody thought that we would see him in the position he is in right now. He is certainly the front-runner with no signs of that fading.” Aiken said that Trump’s entry into the Presidential race will give the real estate mogul a chance to shake things up politically.

“I think he has a really great opportunity even if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination to do something I think the country has needed for a long time, which is to try to break this stranglehold of the two-party system,” he said. “I kind of hope he decides to stick with it and maybe give people another option outside of the Republicans and Democrats.”

Back in March when Aiken was promoting his Esquire docu-series, The Runner Up, Aiken said Trump would be “another colorful cast member” in the Republican race for President.

“He tends to not like to do anything he is not going to be successful at -- sticking his neck out,” Aiken added. “I like him as a person. He has been nice to me and supported me, but I think he's got maybe less of a chance than I did.”

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Singer and failed congressional candidate Clay Aiken catches ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Arena Stage

Singer and failed congressional candidate Clay Aiken catches ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ at Arena Stage

By Emily Heil August 17 at 2:53 PM

Hey, isn’t that … ‘American Idol’ fan fave and former congressional candidate Clay Aiken, catching the Friday-night performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” at Arena Stage?

The crooner/wannabe lawmaker has a connection to the hit show: its music director, Ben Cohn, is Aiken’s own music director, arranging tunes and playing piano for many of his live and studio performances.

Spotting Aiken begs the question of what’s he been up to since losing to Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) in the 2014 general election after clinching the Democratic primary? Not suffering from sore-loser syndrome, at least. Seems Aiken has embraced his role as the forever second-placer (he was also the runner-up in “American Idol” and got bested by Arsenio Hall in 2012 on “Celebrity Apprentice”), identifying himself in his Twitter bio as “America’s #1 Number Two”.

And he hasn’t ruled out another run for public office, telling Time in April: “I think it’ll happen.”

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Black Lives Matter, Ann Coulter and More Announced in First Round of Politicon Programming

Black Lives Matter, Ann Coulter and More Announced in First Round of Politicon ProgrammingFan-fest for political junkies releases initial schedule of panels, film screenings, podcasts and more

Newly confirmed participants include Black Lives Matter, Tony Hale, Touré, Reggie Love, Ann Coulter, Lizz Winstead, Joe Klein, Alex Wagner, Michele Bachmann, Alison Grimes, Clay Aiken, Jon Favreau, Sirius XM, Breitbart News Network, Mic, Salon Media Group, Newsmax TV, Millennial Action Project and more

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Politicon, the unconventional convention set to bring together fans of politics and entertainment in Los Angeles on October 9 and 10, today released the first round of programming along with additional talent and media partners. Newly announced participants include VEEP's Tony Hale, Obama body man Reggie Love, MSNBC host Alex Wagner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, political powerhouse Ann Coulter, Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, Obama speech writer Jon Favreau, influential culture critic Touré and pop star and former Congressional candidate Clay Aiken. Politicon has also signed on additional organizations to curate their own events at the convention including Black Lives Matter, Sirius XM, Breitbart News Network, Mic, Salon Media Group, Newsmax TV, the Millennial Action Project and more.

Positioned as a bipartisan fan fest for political junkies, Politicon will present viewpoints from across the spectrum. With twelve rooms of back-to-back events, Politicon offers programming to capture every imagination – left, right and center – and attendees will be able to easily pick and choose their own Politicon schedule.

Black Lives Matter and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights will bring their Caravan for Justice tour to Politicon with an event hosted by Tourè, marking the internationally renowned tours final stop, and director of speechwriting for President Obama, Jon Favreau, will lead a writers workshop. A host of live podcast recordings have been announced including The Hugh Hewitt Show,Spycast, and Slate podcasts The Gist, Outward Kiki and Podcast for America. Interactive film screenings will include Mad as Hell, War Room and White People coupled with live commentary and Q&A's. SiriusXM's David Webb will present exclusive interviews and special broadcasts throughout Politicon and host GenGap, a panel analyzing issues of generation and gender. SiriusXM's Rick Ungerwill be hosting #NotToday in which personalities from the media and political world will swap roles and debate for their opposing viewpoint.

Audiences will also be treated to unique panels such as The President's Body Man: Reality vs. Fiction, in which Reggie Love and Tony Hale discuss their respective roles as fictional and real life presidential confidantes, Deconstructing the 2016 Election with James Carville and Newt Gingrich, where the two political power players will break down the campaign and forecast what to expect as the quest for the White House ramps up. Additionally, #EmergingUS and Alejandra Campoverdi will examine the role Latinos will play in 2016 and Breitbart News Network's Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos and Robert Davi will deconstruct Hollywood's influence on politics and public opinion during a panel moderated by Breitbart's editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow. A full list of confirmed scheduling can be found at http://politicon.com/schedule/.

"We live in an age when entertainment and politics are so intertwined that each shapes the other. Politicon is a very exciting opportunity to bring together the two worlds and create a synergistic creativity in which each learns from the other. I am sure I will learn far more than I will teach during Politicon." - The Honorable Newt Gingrich

Tickets are available for purchase at: http://politicon.com/tickets/

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