Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982, in the small
town of Burleson, Texas. Two factors contributed in setting
her on the path to stardom. First, the movie Jaws deterred her
from her childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist. Second,
a teacher at Pauline Hughes Middle School heard Clarkson singing
in the hallway, recognized her talent, and encouraged her to
join the choir. Thirteen years old at the time, Kelly was a
singing fiend from there on out.
A regular in choral activities, Clarkson was also granted a
spot in the Texas All-State Choir. Her talent drew much attention,
and after graduating from high school, she set out to sell herself
to record labels. She had some demos made, but despite all her
efforts she could not land a deal. So, she decided to head west
and try her luck in Los Angeles, after having saved enough money
from odd jobs as a pharmacy assistant, telemarketer, comedy
club cocktail waitress, and at a movie theater and the zoo.
Did the land of showbiz opportunity give Clarkson her first
taste of success? Well, yes and no. She put forth typical effort
in searching for work, and landed a job as an extra on the television
show Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. In a mild stroke of luck for
the development of her singing career, she answered a newspaper
ad looking for female vocalists and found herself working with
famous songwriter Gerry Goffin.
In spite of these signs of progress, Clarkson was having a
hard time finding work and became discouraged. After Mr. Goffin
became ill, her roommate moved out and her apartment burned
down, she decided she had had enough, and went back to Texas
-- broke and discouraged -- to regroup.
Back in Burleson, Clarkson felt revitalized. She found a solid
day job as a promoter for Red Bull energy drinks in order to
help pay the bills. Her dream, of course, persisted, even if
she did not have any high-paying gigs or record contracts. Then
one day, a friend told her about the new television program
American Idol, a singing contest where the public votes for
the winner. Kelly signed up with no particularly high expectations;
she was, after all, going to be up against 10,000 contestants.
Clarkson floored the judges right from her audition, where
she sang a version of Aretha Franklin's "Respect,"
which has gone on to become Clarkson's signature song. To her
surprise, Kelly found herself among the final 30 contestants.
Along the way she realized that she really wanted to win --
apparently, she experienced a sort of epiphany while singing
Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman."
Perhaps this motivation gave her voice the added strength and
conviction that helped propel her into the finals.
Fans loved her, and so, noticeably, did the judges. Judge Paula
Abdul, a former pop star herself, said she had the "triple
threat" -- that is, promise in singing, television and
film. But the more impressive comment came from the notoriously
critical British judge Simon Cowell, who told her, "there's
no question about it... you are the best singer on this show."
Kelly Clarkson won the American Idol contest on September 4,
2002, earning 58% of the vote over Justin Guarini, the other
finalist. Her official prize was a million-dollar RCA record
contract; the unofficial prize a considerable amount of fame
and notoriety. On October 5th, 2002, her first single, "A
Moment Like This," went from No. 52 to No. 1 on the Billboard
charts, a new "leap to number one" record (previously
held by the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" in 1964,
which went from No. 27 to No. 1). Meanwhile, she was offered
a multimillion-dollar movie contract for a feature showcasing
the range of talents possessed by her and Guarini, entitled
From Justin to Kelly.
Whether or not the "American Idol" is a lasting position
has yet to be determined. Good indications will be the success
of the film, due in April 2003, and of Kelly's debut album,
whose most recent release date is slated for March 2003. Judging
from the adoration her voice and charisma have already earned
her, it is fairly safe to say that she will stick around a long
time for us to idolize.