Despite some questionable song choices, people started to notice Kelly on the show. Paula Abdul loved her right off the bat, praising the singer’s voice and personality. Simon needed more convincing, but even he was bowled over during “1990’s Week,” after which he compared her to Mariah and Celine.
When the finale rolled around, and she performed “A Moment Like This,” there was no doubt a star was born. Her life irrevocably changed on September 4, 2002, when she became the first winner of “American Idol.” It was a tight contest between her and runner-up Justin Guarini, but Kelly had taken everyone’s breath away.
She Worked Several Odd Jobs
In 2001, she relocated to Los Angeles, the capital of the entertainment industry, to find her big break in music. However, it's not like people could magically know about her talent right away, so Kelly had to keep working once she arrived in L.A. to survive. The aspiring singer took on many side hustles, and working in the fast-food industry was one of them.
Kelly worked as a cocktail waitress at a comedy club. She also found jobs at Subway and Papa John's. Having experienced the hardships first-hand, Kelly has always related to the daily struggles that servers and others in the hospitality industry go through.
The Initial Disappointment That Was Los Angeles
Things did not go as planned in L.A., and she returned to Burleson, Texas, working several odd jobs to pay the bills. However, the aspiring star saw it as a temporary setback. She didn't give up and continued working on her dream. A year later, Kelly was back in Los Angeles, where she successfully auditioned for the first season of a singing competition called "American Idol."
Kelly sang Aretha Franklin's "Respect" for her audition and nailed it. It was an audition to be remembered — one for the history books of the successful reality show. She even managed to impress a normally-surly Simon Cowell.
A Moment Like This
After winning the title on the show that changed her life, Kelly was overwhelmingly everywhere, reaping immense popularity and numerous fans. Kelly Clarkson's first single, "A Moment Like This," debuted on the charts less than two weeks after she won "American Idol."
The single quickly rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 100 and became the year's best-selling single. After that, 2002 went by in a daze, with Kelly performing for several end-of-the-year shows on some of the biggest radio stations in the US. Later that year, she also made her film debut in the rom-com musical “From Justin to Kelly.”
If you are scratching your head right now, trying to think if the existence of "From Justin to Kelly" was new information for you, you are not alone. Let's just say the movie didn't exactly become a cult classic. Kelly, like many others, was not a fan of "From Justin to Kelly." "It was never something I wanted to do," she later admitted to Radio.com.
However, the star revealed it was a contractual obligation, and they could have sued her for not doing it. Although "From Justin to Kelly" was a box office flop, it was a watershed moment in Kelly's career. She proved she was unafraid to take risks, even though her film was universally-panned.