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Singer Kelly Clarkson achieved near-overnight success when she became the first American Idol. All of these years later, and she remains a bubbly, authentic figure to her many fans. Discover what those closest to Clarkson said makes her unique and why she hasn’t changed much through fame.

Kelly Clarkson was the first ‘American Idol’ winner

Clarkson became famous as a young contestant on the first season of American Idol back in 2002. She won the competition, which resulted in a recording contract, among other things (including an ill-advised film with a fellow contestant, From Justin to Kelly).

In subsequent years, Clarkson has continued to put out music, releasing albums eight studio albums, including 2017’s Meaning of Life. But former American Idol judge Paula Abdul still sees the artist in the same light. “She’s just one of those rare gems who’s so genuine and welcoming,” she told the Los Angeles Times of Clarkson in 2020.

Abdul continued, “It makes everyone around her want to get comfortable and have a conversation. Not everyone can have that kind of an impact. It’s a gift to be able to connect people authentically. Kelly’s got that gift, no question.”

Now, she hosts an Emmy winning talk show

Clarkson used her gift in an unexpected way for a musician — she began hosting her own talk show. The Kelly Clarkson Show only began in 2019, but it has already earned several Daytime Emmy nominations, including a win for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host for the artist herself.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Clarkson has had to work hard to stay positive while filming her show virtually. “I’m trying to smile and light up America’s life,” she told the publication. “People in the limelight are humans too and we’re all going through the same roller coaster as everyone else. So sometimes I don’t want to smile.”

But she’s done a great job of it nonetheless. “I always, always say Kelly’s like the color yellow,” showrunner Alex Duda said. “If you spend time with her in a Zoom room or regular room, you leave there feeling better and that’s what we want our viewers to remember. We want our viewers, when those credits are rolling, to feel better.”

How Clarkson has remained grounded

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson | Joseph Cultice/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Clarkson spoke to the publication about how she’s been coping during the pandemic, and even briefly commented on her split from husband Brandon Blackstock, which was made public in June 2020. But despite all of the fame and attention, one person who’s known her since the beginning feels she hasn’t changed much.

“Sitting in the office with Kelly yesterday — it’s literally the same person I first started working with 18 years ago,” Clarkson’s musical director Jason Halbert told the publication of continuing their partnership. “The industry hasn’t changed her. She’s not jaded, she’s still just as excited about working as she was then.”

“I’m sure she has grown in many ways over this time, but the standout take for me with her is somehow she’s managed to — she would never use the word ‘superstar,’ it would make her cringe from the inside out — but she’s managed to become a superstar in all fields and still remain the 20-year-old Texas girl that we met almost 20 years ago,” he finished.