‘The Voice’ Star Kelly Clarkson Reveals Why She Didn’t Expect More Success After American Idol Triumph

by Suzanne Halliburton

Kelly Clarkson was desperate to launch her singing career two decades ago. But she’d been forced to move back to Texas and work odd jobs as a telemarketer, a waitress and an energy drink promoter as she awaited her big break.

We all know that Kelly Clarkson hit it big. She won the first season of American Idol and her very first single released after her victory hit No. 1.

But did you know that Clarkson had no idea what winning a reality show would do for her career? Maybe the crown would open a few doors? Instant fame? No way.

“I thought I was going to be the most famous cocktail waitress in Texas,” Clarkson said.

And Clarkson said this on her own TV talk show. She’s also a coach on The Voice. And since her win on America Idol, she can boast of 11 No. 1 hits, sold 25 million albums while winning four American Music Awards, a couple of ACMs and a Daytime Emmy.

More Than 23 Million Tuned In To See Kelly Clarkson Win First Season of American Idol

All this followed American Idol’s premiere season in 2002. That’s when 23 million viewers tuned into the finale to see Clarkson beat Justin Guarini for the title. The show debuted in the summer when the major networks were between seasons.

Clarkson said no one had an idea how a singing competition would fare with American audiences. But since the show first aired, it’s produced such stars as Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Fantasia and Jordin Sparks.

Clarkson’s American Idol win came up when she interviewed Andy Cohen on her talk show. Cohen was there to promote his new docuseries For Real: The Story of Reality TV. The seven-part series explores America’s obsession with reality television. Cohen, as head of the Bravo network, gave America the Real Housewives franchise and an assortment of other reality shows.

Kelly Clarkson was curious for more details about For Real. She asked Cohen who he talked to from American Idol and offered some insight. She said:

“My season was the first season. There was so much that was so pure. Nobody knew, nobody who even worked on the show, knew if it would work or not in America. It worked in the UK.”

Kelly Clarkson now has switched to The Voice. And her reality-show expertise is a plus for the contestants, who audition and then pick their mentors. The other judges this season are Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas and John Legend. None of the three men competed on national TV as a way to jump-start their careers.

For context, in the summer of 2002, Shelton was working on his second album. Legend was fresh out of college and working for Kanye West. Jonas was 9. Still, that year he released his first single.

The Voice returns Monday. The series just wrapped up its blind audition shows.