Press: New talk host Kelly Clarkson recalls ‘bitterness’ she felt after winning ‘American Idol’

Press: New talk host Kelly Clarkson recalls ‘bitterness’ she felt after winning ‘American Idol’

Seventeen years ago, on Sept. 4, 2002, I interviewed Kelly Clarkson moments after the 20-year-old singer won the inaugural season of “American Idol.”

Last week, I spoke to her again on the bright, airy set of her new syndicated daytime talk show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show” (premieres Monday).

Much has changed for Clarkson, now 37. She’s a major star and three-time Grammy winner. She’s gone from talent competition hopeful to mentor as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice.” She married Brandon Blackstock, who’s also her manager, and they’re raising four children together.

Some things, however, appear to be the same. Despite stardom, Clarkson still exhibits the chatty, outgoing, unaffected personality – “no filter,” as she puts it – that engaged “Idol” voters, helped her connect with music fans and (she hopes) will appeal to talk-show viewers.

When I told Clarkson I interviewed her that night in a backstage hallway of what was then the Kodak Theatre, she offered an almost apologetic reply: “Oh, my gosh. I was probably exhausted.”

Reminded that strong emotions caused her to cry onstage while singing her first single after being anointed the first Idol, Clarkson says, “It’s forever in time. People can watch me bawl singing ‘A Moment Like This.’ It’s fine.”

Clarkson said she felt disoriented that night by the photographers, reporters and network executives swarming around her, quickly followed by appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Today” and “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

“I’m still the same person, but with a busier schedule,” she said then, and as a soon-to-be talk-show host she – still swears by that description today.

“That’s actually very true for right now. I’m the same kid that was on ‘Idol.’ Obviously, I’m now a mother and a wife and there’s different things in my life I’ve progressed with. But the core of me is still the same chick you saw on ‘Idol,” she says. “I have a very normal life, other than my jobs.”

Winning “Idol” created opportunities, but Clarkson’s role as a trailblazer in the fledgling format came at a price. TV talent competitions were seen as a novelty by the music industry, and the “Idol” winner wasn’t at first accorded respect, she says.

Many artists gave her a hard time and were even mean, especially when she started enjoying success on radio, although she notes wryly – and without naming names – that some have gone on to become judges and coaches on talent competitions, “so there’s irony.”

She believes her position as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice” – her night job this fall, as she launches the talk show – provides an opportunity to smooth the path for other budding performers.

“The first three years of my career was me just paying for winning a talent show,” she says. “I got real bitter. I was just looking for anyone to talk to who knew what I was going through. And that’s why I like to do that for artists on ‘The Voice.’ It’s actually healed that bitterness I used to carry, being able to be that for somebody else.”

Clarkson says she loved being on “Idol,” and is planning a talk-show reunion with judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. However, there’s one consequence of her victory she doesn’t miss at all.

“It’s really funny, because I knew that the winner of ‘Idol’ would have to do that movie (the critically savaged “From Justin to Kelly,” with runner-up Justin Guarini) and I didn’t want to do that movie. And I think Justin did. So, we were totally cool with him winning and me not winning, so I didn’t have to do (the movie),” she says. “But I won, and had to do it. Contractually obligated.”
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