On Sept. 4, 2002, a 20-year-old waitress from Fort Worth, Texas named Kelly Clarkson became the first-ever American Idol. And a moment like this has the award-winning singer reflecting on her journey ever since.
“18 years ago today was the finale of the first season of American Idol and it changed my life! I’m still hustlin 18 years later because I know I am blessed to have the opportunities and I still love my purpose!” the inaugural Idol winner wrote on Twitter Friday (Sept. 4) for the finale’s anniversary. “Find your purpose! Seek out what keeps that fire in you burning.”
She beat out Justin Guarini and eventually signed with RCA Records to release her debut single and coronation song she performed during the finale, “A Moment Like This.” The song went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks after its release. It was the first-ever song by an Idol contestant to go No. 1 on the Hot 100.
She has since notched two more No. 1 hits — “My Life Would Suck Without You” in 2009 and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” in 2012 — as well as sold 25 million albums and earned three Grammy awards for best female pop vocal performance (“Since U Been Gone”) and two for best pop vocal album (Breakaway and Stronger).
But when the original Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, reunited on her NBC daytime talk show The Kelly Clarkson Show last fall on the finale’s 17th anniversary, Cowell said her singing career wasn’t the only thing that took off that night.
“I actually genuinely do not believe we would be sitting here today if you hadn’t entered the show,” he explained about the show’s subsequent success. “The whole premise of the show was we had to find a star who was gonna sell records…. When you delivered that moment on that first live show, and when you sang that winning song at the end….”
Abdul finished his sentence by describing that moment as “a game-changer.” Jackson chimed in saying, “And we looked at each other at the end, at the finale and said, ‘Wow, this thing is really gonna work.’ I think that was the moment that we knew.”
Read Clarkson’s reflection and watch a recap of her whole Idol journey below.
18 years ago today was the finale of the first season of American Idol and it changed my life! I’m still hustlin 18 years later because I know I am blessed to have the opportunities and I still love my purpose! Find your purpose! Seek out what keeps that fire in you burning 🔥 ❤️
— Kelly Clarkson (@kellyclarkson) September 4, 2020