Kelly Clarkson Opens Up About ‘American Idol’ Days: ‘People Were Really Mean to Us’

by Keeli Parkey

In addition to her powerful singing voice, Kelly Clarkson is known for her happy, upbeat personality. That doesn’t mean, however, that she hasn’t faced difficult times.

The recording artist and television host opened up about one of those difficult times during Thursday’s (Jan. 14) episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show. During a conversation with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, Clarkson recalled being at an awards show and meeting Hewitt. Clarkson was appearing on the first season of “American Idol” at the time.

“You probably don’t remember this, but it stuck with me so long, like for almost 20 years now … it was at some kind of MTV Awards or VMA [Awards], I don’t know what it was,” Clarkson said during the interview.”But you ran up to me and it was right when it was the final three of ‘Idol.’ We were just so slammed and everything was happening in a whirlwind.”

Justin Guarini and Nikki McKibbin, who passed away last year, were the other two finalists.

“People were really mean to us because we’re from a talent show and it was the first season,” Clarkson said recalling the awards show experience. “Like, everyone was so rude to us. Like, on the carpet, like at the show.”

“Why?” Hewitt asked. “I don’t know. It was so bad,” Clarkson responded. “It was a horrible experience.”

Kelly Clarkson Receives Advice from Jennifer Love Hewitt

In the midst of the stressful awards show experience, Hewitt introduced herself to Kelly Clarkson and showed kindness to the future American Idol winner. The host also recalled how Hewitt told her she was “rooting” for the singer and offered her some advice.

“You told me, ‘Please keep the ones you love so close and it will end up being about a few people in your life, unfortunately. But, this business can be really hard. …” Clarkson said. “You just gave me this advice that was really, really kind in such an unkind time for me personally. … It meant the world to me.”

Watch Kelly Clarkson reminisce with Jennifer Love Hewitt below.

Kelly Clarkson won the first-ever season of American Idol. In 2002, the long-running show was hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. The judges were Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson.

For her very first audition, she sang Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” Then, it was on to Hollywood Week where she continued to turn in successful performances. She made it to the live show by singing Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” She also tackled “It’s Raining Me” by The Weather Girls and “I Surrender” by Celine Dion.

“American Idol” showed that Clarkson has a powerful voice and a strong stage presence. It was an early indication of the star she would become.

Guarini took second place in the first season, while McKibbin took third.