The Stunning Transformation Of Kelly Clarkson

Since taking home the crown as the very first "American Idol" winner in 2002, Kelly Clarkson has been captivating the hearts of fans everywhere with her undeniable talent, catchy hits, quick wit, Southern charm, and no-nonsense attitude. The songstress has built a wildly successful career spanning more than a decade with hit songs such as "Breakaway," "Because of You," "Heartbeat Song," "Since U Been Gone," and "Miss Independent," and she's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 


Most impressively, perhaps, is Clarkson's ability to experiment with — and dominate — any genre of music she chooses. From pop princess, to rock-n-roll diva, to country queen, Clarkson can quite literally do it all. If you don't believe us, you obviously didn't see her opening performance at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards — the gal rapped Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE." and totally killed. 

From her evolving sound to her evolving look, Clarkson is a star to be admired for her ability to remain super down-to-earth despite her mega fame. Here's a look at the stunning transformation of the original American Idol. 

She grew up pretty close to church and with God

In her hit song "Breakaway," Kelly Clarkson sings, "Grew up in a small town [...] Dreaming of what could be/And if I'd end up happy/I would pray." Even though Avril Lavigne, not Clarkson, is credited for writing the lyrics to the song, the words seem to perfectly reflect Clarkson's own childhood experience.


A real-deal small town girl, the original American Idol superstar was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas. In a 2017 interview with The Chicago Tribune, Clarkson described how her small town roots have helped her to cope with the pressure of fame — like not being able to go anywhere without somebody recognizing her. "[I'm] from a small town... where everybody knows you and you can't keep anything secret," she said. "I think [that has] helped me wrap my head around [fame]."

Another thing that's helped Clarkson is her faith in a higher power. "I've always grown up pretty close to church and with God," she said in 2004. "He's the only One I can lean on."

Her childhood was really great, but really hard

In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kelly Clarkson provided the soundtrack to her life — for instance, particular songs that defined the monumental moments in Clarkson's life both before and after becoming a superstar. When asked to name the song that made her want to pursue a career in music, Clarkson responded with Reba McEntire's "Read My Mind." 


"Growing up, my mom [was] a single parent; it was just a really hard life. It was really great, but really hard," Clarkson explained. "When I was a kid, for whatever reason, [McEntire's] voice sounded like home."

Clarkson has been open with her fans about her experience growing up without her father — but she doesn't want anyone's pity. "I think If you don't grow up with it... it's hard to miss something you never had," she told "Today." And the star is in a much better place today. After all, the woman who inspired her to pursue a musical career is now her mother-in-law! It's a small world, after all. 

She credits Alanis Morissette for making her a better writer

Every artist has their influences. In Kelly Clarkson's case, one of her greatest influences just so happened to be one of her biggest secrets. In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Clarkson was asked to name a song that makes her want to "turn up the radio." Her answer? "Anything from Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrisette." 


According to Clarkson, her conservative family barred her from listening to Morrisette, a female rocker known for her provocative, angst-ridden lyrics. But this gal isn't one to follow the rules. "I was not allowed to listen to Alanis Morissette; I did anyway. It was kind of that forbidden fruit for me as a kid," she told Entertainment Weekly

It's a good thing Clarkson decided to go against her family's wishes and listen to Morrisette, because she now credits the Canadian-born songstress as helping Clarkson become the songwriter she is today. "Alanis took it way past the line of what women talk about in songs, how you sing a song," Clarkson said. "It was so dirty and raw! It made me a better writer. It made me a better singer."


This small town girl didn't even know she was auditioning for American Idol

Kelly Clarkson may be famous for being the original reality singing competition star, but according to the star herself, she had no clue what she was even getting herself into! In a February 2018 appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Clarkson dished that she had no idea what she was signing up for when she decided to audition for "American Idol."


"I was one of those dumb people that was like, 'Where do I sign?' I had no idea it was a TV show until the third [audition]," the star told Fallon, laughing. "[Singing was] really the only gift I possessed, so I was like, 'I gotta make money somehow off this,'" Clarkson joked. "It could've ended very poorly."

Luckily for Clarkson, her run on the singing competition ended in the best way possible. The former small-town Texas gal was voted in as the very first American Idol in September 2002, kicking off a wildly successful career. 

From Justin to Kelly to... embarrassment?

Kelly Clarkson's American Idol win certainly kickstarted her career, but according to a 2017 Entertainment Weekly feature, the star didn't want to win. Whaaa?

While being the very first American Idol is definitely an accomplishment any aspiring singer would love to add to their resume, Clarkson had one particular reason to prefer second place — the first place winner was required to star in a movie. "I was like, 'It would be really super cool if I got second and [Justin Guarini] got first, because the winner has to do the movie and the second one doesn't,'" Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly about the moments before her big win. 


Of course, Clarkson did end up winning and starring in the box office bomb From Justin to Kelly — a movie Clarkson has sworn to never tell her children about. "I just want it to go away," Clarkson said about the flick in a 2015 TIME interview. The one good thing to come out of "From Justin to Kelly?" Clarkson's highlighted, layered bob that gave us total early 2000s hair envy!

Taking control of her voice

In 2007, five years after her American Idol win, Kelly Clarkson announced the release of "My December" — the singer's third studio album and a noticeable shift from her pop roots. 

"People are probably going to be like, 'What happened to you?'" Clarkson joked to MTV about "Never Again," an angsty single from her 2007 album. Clarkson, who credits Alanis Morrisette's provocative "Jagged Little Pill" album for making her a better songwriter, drew comparisons to the Canadian-born rocker with lyrics like "I hope the ring you gave her turns her finger green/ I hope when you're in bed with her, you think of me." The racy lyrics were far removed from Clarkson's previous hits such as "A Moment Like This" and "Breakaway" — a fact the songstress owned with pride. "There's more 'me' on this record," she told MTV of "My December." "I had more hold on the reins because I wrote the entire thing." 


Not only did Clarkson begin to sound more like Alanis Morrisette with the release of "My December" — she traded her blonde highlights for dark locks that favored the "Head Over Feet" singer's signature, sultry look. 

First comes love, then comes baby

They say that good things come to those who wait, and Kelly Clarkson can certainly attest to this. After all, we're talking about the girl who waited six years to start dating her husband to-be, Brandon Blackstock, after meeting him for the first time in 2006. 


At a SiriusXM show (via People) in 2017, Clarkson explained to the crowd that, although she felt an undeniable attraction to then-married Blackstock, she isn't the type of girl to intrude on someone else's marriage. Though the pair first crossed paths in 2006 at a rehearsal for the Academy of Country Music Awards, it wasn't until 2012 — after Blackstock and his wife had divorced — that she made a move. 

Blackstock and Clarkson got engaged in December 2012 and married the following October, making Clarkson a stepmom to Blackstock's two children, Savannah and Seth. In June 2014, Clarkson gave birth to the couple's first child together, daughter River Rose. Nearly two years later in April 2016, the couple welcomed son Remington Alexander to the family. Though both pregnancies were difficult for Clarkson, the singer said that having the chance to "pop out magical unicorns" made the struggle totally worth it. 


What didn't kill her made her stronger

Body shamers, begone!

In 2017, Clarkson was praised for her response to a mean-spirited Twitter user who took to the social media platform to call the "Because of You" singer fat. Clarkson's quick-witted response? "I'm still f—ing awesome." 


Though society may associate skinniness with happiness, Clarkson sees it the other way around. As she told Redbook (via Us Weekly) in a 2017 feature, she's usually happier when she's sporting a few extra pounds."People think, 'Oh, there's something wrong with her. She's putting on weight," Clarkson told the magazine. "I'm like, 'Oh, no! I'm sorry, but that represents happiness in my emotional world. For me, when I'm skinny is usually when I'm not doing well." 

Clarkson also spoke to Attitude (via CNN) in 2017 about her battle with weight, blaming the pressures of newfound fame for her thin appearance toward the beginning of her career. "I was miserable, like inside and out, for four years of my life," the singer lamented.


Sharing the secret to her slim down

In early 2018, Kelly Clarkson looked noticeably slimmer in photos posted to her personal Instagram page, as well as during appearances at awards shows like the 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards and the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. Even though she had obviously dropped some pounds, Clarkson looked as curvy and healthy as ever — and fans were dying to know the secret to her impressive, healthy figure.  


During a 2018 press conference for "The Voice" (via Entertainment Tonight), Clarkson jokingly revealed the "secret" to her weight loss. "I have to shout out my whole glam squad," Clarkson replied, joking, "I literally hired Harry Potter and SPANX, it's all like a sausage." 

All jokes aside, Clarkson dished to "Extra" the real reason for her dramatic 37-pound weight loss. The singer explained how her weight fluctuation throughout the years had been caused by "an autoimmune disease and a thyroid issue" she had, and credited the book "The Plant Paradox" by Steven R. Gundry for helping her develop better eating habits and take control of her health. "I'm not on medicine anymore because of this book," Clarkson gushed.


Return to reality TV

In May 2017, it was announced that Kelly Clarkson would be making her return to her television roots as a judge on a popular reality television singing competition. And while "American Idol" had recently announced its return to TV, Clarkson wouldn't be joining the show that kickstarted her career for its reboot. Instead, Clarkson joined the judges' panel on the hit NBC series, "The Voice." 


Many people wondered why Clarkson would choose "The Voice" over the show that started it all for her. Clarkson's reasoning was simple (and totally understandable) — she wanted to be with her family. Since her husband, Brandon Blackstock, manages Blake Shelton, a fellow judge on "The Voice" — Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly that she usually found herself on-set with her husband and children anyway. 

With her husband and kids close by, accepting a position on the judges' panel was a total no-brainer for the singer. And considering Clarkson's team won the competition during her first season as a judge, it seems the original "American Idol" winner hasn't lost touch with her singing competition roots.


She became a talk show sensation

Just before Kelly Clarkson hosted the Billboard Music Awards in 2018, she dropped by "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." During that appearance, host Ellen DeGeneres turned the tables by suggesting she'd be great at hosting a talk show, which she demonstrated by giving Clarkson her own talk-show desk and letting her conduct the interview. 


That bit proved more than a little prophetic when, not long after, news emerged that Clarkson actually had been tapped to host her own talk show. Making its debut in the fall of 2019, "The Kelly Clarkson Show" was an instant hit with viewers, thanks to her easygoing charm while interacting with guests and her signature "Kellyoke" cover versions of popular songs that open each episode. Shortly after "The Kelly Clarkson Show" premiered, Clarkson made a return visit to DeGeneres' talk show. During the conversation, Clarkson admitted she was constantly being asked why, given all the other things going on in her busy career, she decided to host a five-days-a-week daytime show. "Because why not?" Clarkson quipped. "I don't know, you gotta matter 'til you don't, people! And I love talking!"


In 2022, the show was renewed for two more seasons, guaranteeing that new episodes will continue airing through 2025. Another measure of the show's success is the multiple Emmy Awards it's won, including 2023 Daytime Emmys for best daytime talk show and best daytime talk host.

Her divorce from Brandon Blackstock was bitter

In March 2020, Kelly Clarkson, husband Brandon Blackstock, and their kids holed up in their Montana ranch for the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Months later on June 4, she filed for divorce, listing the date of separation as "TBD." This was not one of those amicable Hollywood divorces; that became clear in the legal filings that had Clarkson gaining primary custody of their children, which described "conflict" between the soon-to-be ex-spouses. "The parties have a difficult time co-parenting due to issues of trust between them," noted one court document, as reported by People.  


In September 2021, a judge approved Clarkson's request to declare her to be officially divorced and legally single. However, the financial aspects of the divorce had yet to be fully hammered out. One major point of contention was their Montana ranch, where Blackstock had been living. In October 2021, a judge awarded ownership of the property to Clarkson, who subsequently agreed to give Blackstock a 5.12 percent ownership stake in the ranch, representing about $900,000 of its full $17.75 million value.

The divorce was finalized in March 2022 and wound up costing Clarkson plenty: Not only did she pay Blackstock a one-time lump sum of about $1.3 million, but she was also on the hook for $45,000 per month in child support, with the former spouses maintaining joint custody of their children. She was also ordered to pay him $115,000 monthly in spousal support until January 2024.


She legally changed her name to Kelly Brianne but nobody noticed

Kelly Clarkson isn't actually Kelly Clarkson. Back in February 2022, she filed court documents requesting that her name be legally changed to Kelly Brianne, with her middle name now becoming her surname. As Us Weekly reported, she explained in those documents that she wanted to make the change because "my new name more fully reflects who I am." The following month, a judge granted her request to officially become Kelly Brianne. 


It's a change that many of her fans are likely unaware of. And the obvious question that emerges is why she's continued to tour and release albums under her old name — plus why the title of her daytime talk show hasn't been changed to "The Kelly Brianne Show."

To clear things up, Clarkson explained all in a subsequent interview with People. "I just got divorced, so I had to drop my married last name," she said. "I just kept my middle name for my personal life. I'm still Kelly Clarkson." The reason she was retaining her original moniker for professional purposes, she pointed out, was because she felt it would prove confusing if she were to suddenly emerge with a whole new name. "I don't think I can change Clarkson at this point," she said. "I'm 20 years in!"


Her ex was ordered to pay her $2.6M for illegal business dealings while acting as her manager

Although Kelly Clarkson's divorce from Brandon Blackstock was settled in 2022, there were still legalities to be ironed out stemming from Blackstock's former role as her manager.

Clarkson sued Blackstock, alleging he'd illegally overstepped the boundaries of his position as manager. In legal documents obtained by ETOnline, Clarkson claimed he'd booked various jobs for her and then finalized the contracts. These included her role as coach on "The Voice," becoming a spokeswoman for Wayfair and Norwegian Cruise Line, and hosting the Billboard Music Awards. In doing so, however, he'd violated California labor laws, which stipulate that only a licensed talent agent can secure those types of deals. As a result, a California labor commissioner ruled in Clarkson's favor. She was awarded $2,641,374 in commissions that shouldn't have gone to him; unsurprisingly, Blackstock appealed the decision.


An interesting tidbit emerged from the court filings in the case, relating to something that Blackstock told his then-wife regarding her future role on "The Voice." According to the New York Post, Clarkson testified that she had long wanted to be a part of "The Voice," but Blackstock told her the show was "looking for a more sex symbol type," citing Rihanna as an example. During her testimony, Clarkson was asked how she remembered that specific conversation. "Well, a wife doesn't forget a time she gets told she's not a sex symbol, so that stays," Clarkson said.

She responded to allegations of a toxic atmosphere on the set of her talk show

While there's no denying that Kelly Clarkson's daytime talk show has been a hit, "The Kelly Clarkson Show" became mired in controversy after a May 2023 exposé in Rolling Stone. That report recounted allegations of a toxic atmosphere behind the scenes, based on interviews with numerous current and former employees of the show. The outlet made it clear, however, that the allegations weren't targeting Clarkson herself, but the show's producer, Alex Duda. "I think Alex Duda's a monster," one former staffer told the magazine. Meanwhile, those same staffers had nothing but praise for Clarkson. "Kelly is fantastic. She is a person who never treats anyone with anything but dignity and is incredibly appreciative," an ex-staffer said, while another added, "NBC is protecting the show because it's their new moneymaker. But Kelly has no clue how unhappy her staff is."


As those former staffers indicated, Clarkson was indeed shocked to learn that those who worked for her were struggling and issued a response to the allegations via Instagram. "In my 20 years in the entertainment industry, I've always led with my heart and what I believed to be right," she wrote. "I love my team at 'The Kelly Clarkson Show,' and to find out that anyone is feeling unheard and or disrespected on this show is unacceptable." To improve the situation, she announced that she and the show's senior staff would undertake leadership training.

She embarked on a new life in New York City

Kelly Clarkson made a big move in 2023 when she relocated from Los Angeles to New York City. That move also impacted her daytime talk show, with "The Kelly Clarkson Show" shifting to filming in NYC at the start of its fifth season. As she said during an appearance on "Today," she'd never been that big a fan of L.A. "It's just never been my thing, in 20 years," she explained, via People. "I never wanted to live there in the first place."


Clarkson's decision to swap coasts ultimately had to do with the state of her mental health after her divorce. "I was very depressed for the last three years — and maybe a little before that, if I'm being honest," she candidly told People. "I think I really needed the change." According to Clarkson, making the move from L.A. to the Big Apple has indeed been the panacea she needed, both for herself and for her children. "My kids are thriving here," she said of her new home in Manhattan. "We're just doing so much better, and we needed a fresh start."

However, Clarkson admitted that she approached the move with no shortage of trepidation. "I'll be real honest: I thought I was making a horrible decision," Clarkson told USA Today, but revealed she quickly fell in love with her new home. "I genuinely love it, and I love that my kids love it," she added. 


Living in New York led her to lose weight

When "The Kelly Clarkson Show" relocated from L.A. to New York in its fifth season during the fall of 2023, viewers noticed that host Kelly Clarkson had slimmed down considerably, reportedly losing 50 lbs. Online, fans speculated she'd shed weight with the assistance of the pharmaceutical drug Ozempic. 


While Clarkson didn't specifically deny that, she credited her weight loss to all the exercise she was getting by simply living in New York. "Walking in the city is quite the workout," she explained in an interview with People. In addition, she also revealed that shifting to a high-protein diet had been a contributing factor in her weight-loss journey. "I eat a healthy mix. I dropped weight because I've been listening to my doctor — a couple years I didn't," she said. "And 90 percent of the time I'm really good at it because a protein diet is good for me anyway. I'm a Texas girl, so I like meat — sorry, vegetarians in the world!"

Walking more was indeed among the biggest lifestyle changes she experienced in 2023, which she confirmed in a video looking back on the year and sharing her resolutions for 2024. "We're going to shows, we're out and about, we're walking around," she said of residing in NYC. "When we lived in L.A. ... it's just not as easy to walk around and be a part of the city there."


She's in no hurry to enter another romantic relationship

As the pain from her divorce subsided over time, Kelly Clarkson was not one of those celebrities to immediately dive back into the dating pool in search of a new partner. She appeared on Instagram Live in September 2023 to answer fans' questions, one of which asked if she had a new man in her life. "Do I have a boyfriend? No! And not looking. You know why? I love being single," she said, via People. "And, you know, you think you're going to spend the rest of your life with somebody, and you don't. That's hard to start over."


In fact, during a subsequent interview with People, Clarkson revealed that she hadn't really been jonesing to tie the knot in the first place but agreed to it for the sake of her ex-husband. "I never wanted to get married the first time," she said. "[Brandon Blackstock] had children, a religious background, and it was important, I think, for him. But I've never been that person." She also insisted she wouldn't even entertain the notion of remarrying until her children were grown and were no longer living with her.

She also elaborated on why she wasn't eager to begin dating. "Dating sucks. It's so awkward," she said. "I was single until I was, like, 30, and I forgot how really good at that I am ... I'm really good right now, I'm having a good time."