In an era when talent seems to be more rampant than ever, being the star that rises to the top is no small feat. In fact, in the entertainment world, it’s just about the biggest feat there is!
Starting in 2002, that idea reached front stage when a little reality show called “American Idol” hit the scene. Sure, there had been other similar concepts, but none of them discovered the success, following, or star talent that this competition and its three original judges brought in like moths to a flame. With its first season, call it luck or fate, they claimed one of their greatest stars to date — “Miss Independent” herself, Kelly Clarkson!
Growing up in a Southern Baptist family in Fort Worth, Texas, most of Clarkson’s vocal experience came not from formal training but rather from school choirs and musical theater productions.
Straight out of high school, she set her sights on Los Angeles, saving up money by waitressing and working at a movie theater. When she finally made the move to California, she stumbled through with little success. She was told that she didn’t have the right body type or that her look didn’t match her vocal style.
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Eventually, a fire struck her apartment in the spring of 2002 and took all her belongings with it. After attempting to stick it out by living in her car, she was forced to make the move back to Texas.
Enter “American Idol.” A friend told Clarkson about upcoming auditions for this then-anomaly of a reality show. At its start, “American Idol” was not universally expected to be the hit it is today. One critic even called it “a sadistic musical bake-off,” expecting it to be a mere summer fling.
But with promises of an RCA recording contract and a $1 million prize, Clarkson showed up to the Dallas Anatole at the crack of dawn to shoot her shot.
She walked into that audition room and sang her own powerhouse renditions of “At Last” and “Express Yourself.” Simon Cowell later wrote in his memoir that she initially didn’t appear to be much more than a good voice.
Yet it wasn’t long before her down-to-earth disposition and depth beyond her years caused fans to connect with her. This girl-next-door charm eventually started to win the judges over as well.
As the show continued, Clarkson showed the stuff she is made of, thriving under the pressure and introducing America to her defining characteristic: her effortless, showstopping belt!
A victory that most won’t forget is her legendary performance of “A Moment Like This.”
Harkening back to this performance, Clarkson told Texas Monthly, “I was so exhausted from the competition, I didn’t know I was crying until I watched a tape of the final show a few weeks later.”
After her momentous victory when she claimed the title of the first-ever American Idol, the world was waiting to see if the show would make good on its promise to make her the next big thing in music.
Next up was her first film, “From Justin To Kelly,” which was far from a home run. But Clarkson kept on.
As one RCA executive said, “[Kelly was] a relentlessly hard worker … She never once had to be told that she was going to have to keep waking up every day and [prove] herself. Despite all of her sudden fame, she knew what it took to break a record and establish a career: not just one television show but constant promotion and constant performing.”
The numbers didn’t lie — Clarkson was still a star! “A Moment Like This” sold a whopping 600,000 copies, grabbing the title of the top-selling single in the U.S. in 2002.
In the years after the show, she navigated through difficulties with her RCA contract. She was determined to create music that fully reflected who she is and what she wants to contribute to the world.
All of those obstacles, she says, are part of what made her into the person she is today.
“I’m a very strong individual. I’m very confident, and I’ve been forced to find that in myself. I’ve been forced to at a very early age,” she told Glamour UK. “So, you just take your cards you’re dealt, and you do the best you can with them.”
With 15 Grammy nominations and three Grammy wins under her belt, Clarkson can be sure that she has been an excellent steward of the hand she was dealt. A star through and through with the talent, personality, and character to match, she has earned every bit of it!
Unsuprisingly, she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Right now, her schedule consists of coaching singers on “The Voice,” hosting her Emmy award-winning daytime talk show “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” being a mom to her precious kids, River Rose and Remington Alexander, and working on a new album that will be released this year.
Not only that, but she has also scored her own star! It will be added to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame later this year.
Through it all, she remains the same down-to-earth, relatable, hardworking, and self-assured singer who walked into that audition room nearly two decades ago.
“I’ve had these meetings with record executives where there is all this deep talk about how to break me out of the ‘American Idol’ label,” she once said. “And I say, ‘Dudes, just let me sing. It doesn’t matter to people how you got into the business. It matters to them how you stay.'”
Her entire career has paved the way in proving just how true that can be!
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