How Old Was Kelly Clarkson When She Won ‘American Idol’?

Kelly Clarkson is a singer, songwriter, actor, and television personality whose humble roots began in Fort Worth, Texas on April 24, 1982. Clarkson skyrocketed into fame when she initially appeared on the very first season of American Idol. During that first season, the singing competition show was wildly successful and several stars were born that season. None shone so brightly, however, as Kelly Clarkson, who walked away as the winner. 

During her time on the show, Kelly Clarkson was obviously quite young – despite being incredibly talented. But just how old was Kelly Clarkson when she won American Idol, and where did that win initially take her career? Here’s what we know.

How old was Kelly Clarkson when she won ‘American Idol’?

The first season of American Idol took place in 2002. Since Clarkson was born in April of 1982, she was 20 years old. At the time she decided to audition, Clarkson was working as a cocktail waitress after a few failed stints in the music industry. 

For winning the first season of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson was awarded a million dollar recording contract with RCA Records. Her first few albums and handful of singles proved to be wildly successful. 

‘Thankful’

Kelly Clarkson’s 2003 debut album was entitled Thankful, and came shortly after her successful single A Moment Like This. The single helped to propel record sales after it debuted at #52 on the Billboard Top Charts and jumped very quickly to the top spot. The album was successful in it’s own right, and featured the hit single Miss Independent. It was Clarkson’s second album, however, which would prove to be her biggest hit.

‘Breakaway’

In 2004, Kelly Clarkson released her second album, Breakaway. The album not only followed the success of Thankful, but outshone it in every aspect. Some of Clarkson’s most popular songs to date came off this second album, including Since U Been Gone, Breakaway, Behind These Hazel Eyes, and Walk Away

Not only did Clarkson’s second album produce a handful of smash hits, but won the pop star two Grammy awards. The first was for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the song Since U Been Gone, and the second was for Best Pop Vocal Album. 

A break in success

When Kelly Clarkson released her third album, My December, in 2007, it was amidst a heated feud with her then-producer, Clive Davis. Davis believed the album was too dark and “didn’t have any singles,” but Clarkson refused to change the album. This led to a falling out, and despite initially strong sales the album tapered off without any notable singles.

Moderately successful follow-ups

Since My December, Kelly Clarkson has released four studio albums – one of which, Wrapped in Red, was a holiday themed album. The other three, however, proved to be moderately successful with each producing one or two popular hits.

2011’s Stronger produced the hit singles Mr. Know It All and Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). Both were well-played on local radio stations. Then, in 2015, Clarkson released the album Piece by Piece, which included the hit single Heartbeat Song

Kelly Clarkson’s most recent album was released in 2017, and it broke away from the edgy upbeat pop that her fans had grown to love and expect from her. The album, Meaning of Life, was more soul inspired and softer than previous albums. It did, however, get nominated for a Grammy and produce two mildly popular singles – Love So Soft and Move You.

What is Kelly Clarkson doing now?

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson | Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Since last year, Kelly Clarkson has returned to the spotlight as one of the coaches of singing competition show The Voice. This seems only fitting, considering her own start came from a similar singing competition show. She will also be hosting her own talk show, which is coming soon.