Kelly Clarkson remains one of the most successful American Idol winners to date, having transitioned from Idol alumnus to genuine superstar. Her steady climb to the top of the charts began early in her life, and she's showing no signs of slowing down now.
Kelly Clarkson was born April 24, 1982, in Fort Worth, Texas. Her parents divorced when she was six and she grew up in Burleson, where she was raised by her mother and stepfather.
Clarkson's seventh grade teacher was the first to discover her singing talent. After overhearing Clarkson singing outside of the classroom, the teacher convinced her to join the school choir.
Joining the choir was a pivotal moment for Clarkson. She continued to participate in choir throughout high school and discovered a love of performance through appearing in school musical productions. She also performed in school talent shows and developed a reputation locally for her vocal abilities.
Clarkson's high school reputation helped her earn full scholarships at three different colleges. University of North Texas, University of Texas at Austin, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music all offered her a free ride. Clarkson eventually decided college was not for her and that she was ready to dive right into her music career.
American Idol, the singing competition and reality show, paved Kelly Clarkson's way to success. Friends encouraged her to audition for the show when it was in its first season. Clarkson beat out Justin Guarini for the top prize. The show results were announced on September 4, 2002, and her win remains one of the closest finishes in Idol history. Following her victory, Clarkson signed a record deal and has been enjoying a phenomenal career in music ever since.
- Thankful, her first single and the single released by the Idol company one month after her win, made history on the Billboard charts for number of chart places jumped in one week, from number 52 to number 1.
- Thankful, Clarkson's first full length album, was released in April 2003 and went to number one. Reviews from music critics were lukewarm, but the album went double platinum.
- After winning back some creative control over her career, Clarkson released Breakaway in November 2004. After a slow start, the album surpassed Thankful in terms of sales. It was also better received by critics.
- After completing an extensive round of touring, Clarkson came back with My December in June 2007, after much public arguing with record label boss Clive Davis about its direction. The album sales were underwhelming compared to her other efforts.
- All I Ever Wanted was released in March 2009. The album's first single, My Life Would Suck Without You, zoomed up the charts even faster than her very first single, going from number 97 to number one in a single week.
- Between her album releases, Clarkson also dabbled in country music, performing with Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts.
- In September 2009, Clarkson joined forces with Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Leona Lewis to headline VH1 Divas.
- In 2011, Clarkson released Stronger, her fifth studio album. Its songs combined pop sensibility with country and rhythm & blues influences. The album garnered excellent reviews from music critics and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
- Clarkson released Greatest Hits: Chapter One, her first greatest hits album, in 2012. It was well-received by both critics and fans, debuting at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and winning praise for Clarkson's "vocal chops" as well as for her illustrious career so far.
Kelly Clarkson Fun Facts
Clarkson, ever eager to embrace new challenges, has expanded her creative energies beyond music, becoming active in film, television, and philanthropy.
- Her original career plan didn't involve music at all. Instead, she planned to become a marine biologist. Watching the movie Jaws made her change her mind.
- Clarkson appeared in From Justin to Kelly, a feature film starring her and her American Idol competitor. The film was a box office disaster and Clarkson has since said that she did not want to do the movie but was contractually obligated to appear.
- Simon Cowell's brother penned the script for the ill-fated From Justin to Kelly. The movie earned a total of $5 million, which is less than half of what it cost to make.
- Clarkson placed second in the World Idol competition. Though she claimed she was not feeling well, the press gave her a hard time for leaving as soon as the competition was over and not sticking around to do any press junkets.
- She has appeared on TV shows Reba, MadTV, Saturday Night Live and American Dreams, on which she played country singer Brenda Lee.
- During an interview after the sixth season of American Idol, Simon Cowell said he still believes Clarkson is the most talented singer to have ever won the show and compared her to female vocalists like Celine Dion.
- Clarkson owns a ranch in Texas, where she provides a refuge for abandoned and unwanted animals. She makes sure they have proper health care and works to find them new families to live with.
- She is an active supporter of such causes as Live Earth, March of Dimes, UNICEF, and Save the Children.
- A visit to an African-American church in Texas provided one of Clarkson's first inspirations to go into music. Her musical influences include soul singers like Etta James and Aretha Franklin.
- In December 2012, Clarkson got engaged to Brandon Blackstock, who is the son of her talent manager and also the stepson of Reba McEntire.
A Winning Combination
Kelly Clarkson's down to earth personality combined with her earnest professionalism and considerable vocal talents make her a hit with critics and audiences. The years that have passed since her triumph on American Idol have shown that Clarkson will continue to be a winner on the music scene for many years to come.