Kelly Clarkson is one of those celebrities that everyone seems to know. She's dazzled the world with her powerhouse vocals and songwriting skills, but her success came at a chilling price. Her outgoing personality hides a past filled with rejection, body image pressure, family drama—and more heartbreak than we ever thought possible.
Kelly Clarkson was born in 1982 in Burleson, Texas to an ordinary middle-class family. Ordinary, that is, until her parents got divorced and destroyed the six-year-old Clarkson’s world. In the aftermath, her siblings went to live with other family members while Clarkson remained with her mother. Even though her family felt broken, she still found something to believe in.
Growing up as a Southern Baptist, Clarkson's faith reigned over everything. When she was eight years old, Clarkson visited an African-American church in her hometown of Fort Worth. There, the choir's soaring passion sparked a new dream in Clarkson's heart: She also wanted to sing with such feeling. However, few know that, despite her talent, Clarkson's prior ambitions had nothing to do with flexing her vocal chops.
As a youngster, Kelly Clarkson harbored fantasies of becoming a marine biologist—but a fateful moment ruined her goals before they even had the chance to take flight. She made the dire mistake of watching the classic movie Jaws. It scared her so badly that it quashed her desire to work in the ocean. Little did she know, her singing career would also eat her up and spit her back out—but in a completely different way.
Upon graduating high school, Clarkson had the world at her fingertips: Three full scholarships stared her down. However, instead of seizing the opportunity, she made a shocking decision. She turned down all of the scholarships in the hopes of becoming a singer right out of the gates. Well, let's just say, her best-laid plans did not go smoothly.
To Clarkson's dismay, breaking into the music industry proved much harder than she originally thought. She scraped and toiled, working minimum wage jobs so she could afford to create a demo. However, she was in for the rudest awakening imaginable. When she finally started approaching record labels with her heart on her sleeve, only disappointment awaited her.
Unfortunately, what Clarkson thought would be her big break only succeeded in breaking the bank—with no interest from any record label. After all her hard work and sacrifice, it seemed like Clarkson would never get the chance to record an album. But her luck was about to change. Someone finally noticed her, and she received recording contract offers from Interscope Records and Jive Records.
It was the break Clarkson had been waiting for—but there was one massive problem.
At first, these multiple contracts seemed like a dream come true—but they quickly morphed into a fresh nightmare. Clarkson realized that the record labels didn't want to help her record her own music. Instead, they wanted to create a barely recognizable, cookie-cutter, popstar version of her. Determined to remain true to herself, she made a drastic decision.
Kelly Clarkson was adamant about writing and performing music she was passionate about—and so, she took huge risks and turned down both record deals. Becoming a "star" wasn't as important to her as authenticity. Still, despite this major setback, it wasn't the end of the road for her. Always willing to take a risk, Clarkson branched out in a new direction.
In 2001, Clarkson made a huge leap...literally. She moved to sunny Los Angeles, believing it to be a land of opportunity, but it was anything but. She landed small roles on shows like Dharma and Greg and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Meanwhile, her passion for music faded into the background. Unfortunately, in lieu of her mounting failures, life was about to get a lot more complicated for the struggling artist.
Even with her small acting roles and her demo tracks, Clarkson failed to interest any prospective record labels. Little did she know, things were about to go from bad to worse. With her dreams already slipping away, a devastating fire broke out in her apartment. All of her worldly possessions were burnt to a crisp—and the tragedy left her with no home and no hope.
Oh, but rock bottom was still to come.
Circling the drain, Clarkson ended up sleeping in her car. As her life spiraled beyond her control, she felt more defeated than ever before. She had no choice but to head home to Burleson. For the dispirited Clarkson, it felt like a crushing step backward—and yet, this small decision changed the course of her life in an incredible way.
Although Kelly Clarkson's dreams had come apart at the seams—fate had a shocking twist in store for her. In 2002, her friends heard about a new show called American Idol and convinced her to audition. It seemed like a long shot, but at this point, Clarkson took whatever chance she could get her hands on. And then the unthinkable happened.
When Kelly Clarkson won a spot on American Idol, her world turned upside down. She boldly leapt into the whirlwind world of television without really knowing what she was getting into. With each round of the competition, Clarkson dazzled the audience and judges with her powerful vocals and genuine charm. As each week passed, her anticipation grew alongside the cheers of her adoring new fans.
The day of the American Idol finale marked the beginning of Kelly Clarkson's explosive career. She crushed her competition, Justin Guarini, and landed a record deal with RCA Records. Oh, but the best was yet to come. When her first singles dropped in 2002, she hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In fact, her single rose through the ranks so quickly—she broke a record set by The Beatles.
But as bolstering as her newfound fame was, there was also something in her contract that terrified her.
Although over the moon with her blossoming career, Clarkson's contract demanded that she act in a studio film. In fact, she was so mortified by this that she bawled her eyes out, desperately pleading with her lawyers to get her out of the movie. Nope. She had no choice in the matter and had to star in From Justin to Kelly alongside the American Idol runner-up, Justin.
But though she hated the movie, she didn't actually mind spending time with her very attractive co-star.
Although From Justin to Kelly embarrassed her, the experience wasn't all bad. On set, her friendship with Justin only deepened. And as they acted out the beachy romance, real sparks started flying between the two singers. Sadly, any relationship between the two singers was doomed from the beginning. Clarkson's red-hot career trumped all other distractions, and they eventually went their separate ways.
From an outsider's perspective, Clarkson's road to stardom seemed like a fairy tale—but the reality was far from glamorous.
Although Kelly Clarkson was grateful to American Idol for launching her career, she also felt suffocated by her new image. Determined to get back to her roots, she made a risky decision. For her second studio album, she shook things up and switched to rock-style music. She also co-wrote six of the tracks. Braced for the brutal backlash, she released her new songs into the world.
Clarkson's 2004 album, Breakaway, ripped through the radio and ignited the ardor of her fans. The reaction was beyond her wildest dreams: It sold over 12 million copies and became one of the best-selling albums of the year. Yet, as much as Clarkson had taken the reins on her own public image, the pressure from her management was about to get even worse, and much more personal.
Despite Clarkson proving that she was capable of making choices that led to success, her management team still didn’t respect her. And that's when they dropped the most disturbing bombshell yet: The label told Clarkson she needed to look more like the super-thin women on magazine covers. They believed she had to compete with their looks in order to be successful.
The overwhelming pressure to conform to beauty standards took a mighty toll on the star.
Although Kelly Clarkson tried her best to slim down, it was never enough for anybody. She had the world at her back, criticizing her weight and her looks—even though she never wanted to change in the first place. What's more? The media was vicious and found endless ways to exploit her. Clarkson was livid—but then they took things way too far.
A brand new evil arose when magazines began to "touch up" images of Kelly Clarkson. They didn't just airbrush her skin, they also photoshopped her entire body and changed the bone structure of her face. On one ironic occasion, Self Magazine severely altered her cover photo when the accompanying article was about how comfortable she was in her own skin.
Before long, Clarkson reached her breaking point.
Clarkson was so upset—she took to social media to blast the manipulation of her image. Risking even more conflict with her management team, she wasn't afraid to speak her mind and refused to let pop culture objectify her. In doing so, Clarkson created a safe space for her fans and for herself. But that wasn't all. During her early career, she struggled with deadly depression.
She was at her skinniest...and her saddest. With a world of criticism at her back, the defiant pop star met someone who definitely adored the way she looked.
For years, Kelly Clarkson's dating life had been nothing but a disappointment. But everything changed when she met talent manager Brandon Blackstock, the son of famous country singer, Reba McEntire. When Clarkson set eyes on Blackstock, something clicked. She knew they could be great together. However, their meet-cute was a tad scandalous.
When Kelly Clarkson first met Brandon Blackstock he was wholly unavailable—a married man. But later, in 2012, their paths crossed again, and this time he was single. After sparking a romance at the Super Bowl, where she sang the National Anthem, the two began spending more and more time together. But while this blossoming relationship was a positive turn of events, there was yet another memorable moment for Clarkson that was downright chilling.
The first time Kelly Clarkson met the new Senator, Barack Obama, it went horribly. She was asked to introduce him on stage in front of the US Senate. But to Clarkson's horror, her mind went completely blank. She forgot what the name of his Grammy was, the name of his book—Clarkson even forgot the Senator’s name! But that wasn't the worst part.
It was all caught on camera and Clarkson found herself shaken by the humiliating ordeal. Little did she know, that wouldn’t be the last time she saw Obama.
After her hilarious (but totally embarrassing) first meeting with Barack Obama, Clarkson assumed she'd never see him again. She was so, so wrong. Only a few months after the awkward encounter, Obama began running for President...Then he won. In an unbelievable turn of events, Clarkson was actually one of the artists asked to perform at his 2013 inauguration.
However, they've never talked about that one time she forgot his name.
Clarkson took the good with the bad. A year after meeting Brandon Blackstock, she took the plunge and married him. Delirious with wedded bliss, poor Clarkson had no idea how twisted her marriage would one day become. Still enjoying the honeymoon phase, the couple didn't waste any time adding more joy to their lives and family.
A year after embarking on this exciting new chapter, Kelly Clarkson had some big news: She was expecting her first child. In 2014, she officially welcomed River Rose into her life. She and Blackstock were over the moon about the new addition to their family—but there were more happy tidings to come. A few years later, the pop star welcomed another baby, Remington Alexander.
Clarkson's life was a whirlwind of fame and motherhood—and yet she still managed to spice up her career in a unique way.
Although Kelly Clarkson loved spending quality time with her family, she still had her ambition in tow. On top of her singing career, she became one of the coaches on The Voice in 2016. This new challenge thrilled Clarkson, but behind the scenes, there was some playful tension. You see, she managed to spark a rivalry with one of her co-stars.
When Clarkson signed on to Season 14 of The Voice, her competitive streak shone brightly. She was outspoken, energetic, and loved to win. And it seemed to work since she had multiple winners during her time there. But not everyone thought she was an amazing coach. Blake Shelton confessed that was the worst coach to ever star on the show—next to Levine, of course.
However, it wasn't what it seemed.
Luckily, Clarkson and Shelton's rivalry was more of a sibling rivalry than anything else. Shelton merely jested about his superiority and constantly made fun of Clarkson, trying to annoy her whenever possible. Maybe Shelton was just jealous of her undeniable success and endless energy. After all, Clarkson's sense of child-like wonder and bubbliness has defined her reputation.
In fact, she tapped into this exact energy in order to create the most amazing gift for her children.
Kelly Clarkson is a woman of many talents. In 2016, she wrote a book inspired by her daughter. Knowing that River Rose would never be able to remember all of her adventures as a baby, Clarkson hoped to immortalize them in River Rose and the Magical Lullaby. In it, Clarkson uses a lullaby as a magical tool that sparks adventures.
Clarkson hopes that the book inspires all children to dream big. Not long after, the singer had the chance to dream big herself—and faced an opportunity of a lifetime.
Kelly Clarkson made a big leap from the stage to daytime television: She was the host of her very own talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show. From its tender beginnings, it was clear how much everyone loved her outgoing and quirky personality. Moreover, her ratings even challenged those of more seasoned hosts like Ellen Degeneres. But after the cameras stopped rolling, Clarkson faced a plethora of personal demons.
Although her show took off in a huge way, Clarkson quietly suffered behind closed doors. You see, since 2006, the star has struggled with an ongoing autoimmune condition, as well as a thyroid condition—and has only recently opened up about it. But this was only the tip of the iceberg. On top of her health issues, Clarkson's family was about to face their most heartbreaking chapter yet.
Sadly, the rollercoaster of life, not to mention the pandemic, took a startling toll on Kelly Clarkson's marriage. In June 2020, Clarkson made the heartbreaking decision to file for divorce from her husband, claiming there were irreconcilable differences. Clarkson won primary custody of both her children—but as it turned out, this was no ordinary “we just fell out of love” kind of divorce.
Her husband made an awful claim against her.
Before her very eyes, Clarkson watched as her entire life crashed and burned. And then it took an even darker turn. To add insult to injury, her ex-husband's management company filed a lawsuit against her. It claimed that Clarkson owed the company $1.4 million in unpaid commission on top of the $4 million she owed for her work on The Kelly Show and The Voice.
However, Clarkson wasn't going down without a fight. She turned around and accused him of a terrible betrayal.
Kelly Clarkson's marriage had hidden skeletons in the closet, and she used them to her advantage. She fired back at him with a lawsuit of her own. She believed that her oral agreement with her ex's company, Starstruck, was fraudulent. And even worse? She claimed that both Blackstock and his father had been acting as unlicensed agents for years.
If she won, she could potentially get Blackstock’s lawsuit dismissed. But unfortunately, he wanted something else from Clarkson—and it was no small demand.
Although they had worked out sharing time with their kids, Clarkson was much less keen on sharing her money with Blackstock. Despite their prenuptial agreement, he was determined to get his paws on some of her fortune. His requests were outrageous: He wanted $436,000 a month in spousal and child support, and for her to pay his $2 million attorney fees.
Oh, but this was only the beginning of the marital horror story.
In late 2021, Blackstock was still living at Clarkson's $17 million dollar ranch in Montana, while she lived in Los Angeles. However, when she told him of her plans to sell the property, he refused to leave. With no other choice, Clarkson took her stubborn ex-husband back to court and tried to get him evicted. But throwing her husband out would prove much harder than Clarkson thought.
In court, Clarkson and Blackstock went head to head. He claimed that the divorce was costing him too much money and he couldn't afford to buy a house. He also claimed that he wanted to start a new career and become a full-time rancher. Shockingly, the court sided with Blackstock and allowed him to stay in Clarkson's home. They did, however, leave her with a sliver of hope.
The court demanded that Blackstock pay the maintenance costs if he wished to live on Clarkson's ranch—a whopping $81,000 a month. If he failed to keep up with these payments, Clarkson could then file again to sell the property. In the midst of this mounting fiasco, however, she managed to gain some small victories.
After a lot of back and forth, Kelly Clarkson finally gained control of most of the couple’s assets. And while Clarkson eventually agreed to give her ex-husband a small share of the Montana ranch, she did eventually regain full ownership of it and their other properties. Incessantly scraping the bottom of the barrel, Blackstock had even tried to claim the ranch as "marital property".
Luckily, the court saw right through him. After all the struggles of the divorce, the heated arguments, resentment, and anger, there seemed to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel.
In March 2022, after endless stress and bitter clashes with her former husband, a judge finally approved their divorce settlement. Clarkson would have to give Blackstock $115,000 in spousal support per month until January 2024. On top of that, Blackstock would also get $45,600 in child support from Clarkson—even though she had primary custody of the kids.
Needless to say, this was not quite the ending Clarkson was hoping for, but at least she was free. And it wasn’t long before she was ready to sing about it...
Getting feelings out in the open is generally a healthy thing to do—but as a superstar, Clarkson was no stranger to baring her soul to the entire world. She confessed that her ninth album is especially personal and honest, and it's not hard to guess why. The music provides an intimate look into the breakdown of her marriage. Still very much healing, Clarkson turned her focus toward a fresh start.
Following her divorce, Clarkson was ready to start over. She strived to begin the next chapter of her life as the most authentic version of herself. Her first step? She made a shocking decision and changed her official name to Kelly Brianne. But that doesn’t mean she’s changing her iconic name when it comes to things like her talk show! She just wanted a name in her personal life that felt more like her—the new-and-improved Kelly.
In the spirit of starting over, Clarkson had one more massive change in the works.
As much as she loved working with singers and joking around with her fellow hosts, Clarkson made the difficult decision to leave The Voice as a coach. But she wasn’t exactly quitting television. She is now a host on the new show American Song Contest, as well as an executive producer. Luckily, this new show allows her more quality time with her kids.
But her marriage isn’t the only part of her life where Clarkson wishes she could have a do-over.
Even a superstar like Clarkson isn't immune to getting a little starstruck. But when it gets documented on live television, you get to relive the embarrassment over and over! When Clarkson attended the 2018 Golden Globes, she was just finishing an interview with Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet when she spotted a legendary actress making her way toward her. Her reaction was unforgettable.
When Kelly Clarkson saw Meryl Streep in the flesh, she screamed with unbridled excitement. Seacrest quickly introduced the two, leading to a perfect fangirling moment. The singer gushed that she had been a Meryl Streep fan since she was a kid. Clarkson may look back on the incident with embarrassment, but moments like these are just another example of why people love her so much.
Of course, in the midst of her good reputation, let's not forget one of the most contentious moments from her past.
On her earlier albums, Clarkson claims her label actually blackmailed her into working with Dr. Luke. They told her that they wouldn't release her album unless she did what they asked. It seems like Clarkson didn't have a choice, so she worked with him on Since U Been Gone, Behind These Hazel Eyes, and later, My Life Would Suck Without You.
However, Clarkson’s true feelings came to light in 2016, when Clarkson backed fellow singer and artist, Kesha, in her fight against Dr. Luke and the terrible allegations against him.
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