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20 Years After Winning American Idol, Kelly Clarkson Reflected On Her Victory With A Touching Message For Fans

Kelly Clarkson performs on American Idol.
(Image credit: Fox)

Before Kelly Clarkson started taking over daytime TV with her talk show, before she formed a friendly rivalry with Blake Shelton as a coach on The Voice, and before she won dozens of awards — including three Grammys — for her nine studio albums, she was the first winner of Fox’s then-new singing competition, American Idol, in 2002. Two decades have passed since the confetti fell around the 20-year-old young woman from Texas, and Clarkson marked that big milestone with a sweet message to her fans. 

American Idol skyrocketed Kelly Clarkson to fame, and today it seems like there’s nothing she can’t do. Movies, TV, music, hosting … fans can't seem to get enough! When she took to Instagram to mark the 20th anniversary of her reality TV win, Clarkson seemed extremely aware that none of it could have happened without the people who supported her on the show and in all the years since. Check out her message:

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Kelly Clarkson thanked the voters who propelled her in the singing competition, and said of all the things she’s proud of from the past 20 years, she’s most thankful for the relationships she’s formed and the friends she’s made. She noted that without the strength of those around her, she would not have this platform and “would probably not be here at all.” 

When the young singer stood in front of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson to audition for American Idol with Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” she likely couldn’t have even dreamed of what was to come. She advanced in the competition, eventually beating Justin Guarini (who she went on to star with in From Justin to Kelly, a movie she hated) to win a recording contract. It’s hard to believe 20 years — half of Kelly Clarkson’s life! — has passed since that first season. Check out some of the highlights from her American Idol journey:

You can just tell from her audition that she was meant to be a star! Part of what has endeared fans to Kelly Clarkson over the years — besides her powerhouse voice — is her authenticity. The artist has used The Kelly Clarkson Show, which has won five Daytime Emmy Awards, to sometimes have really tough conversations with her guests, as well as open up about her own personal struggles, including her long divorce from Brandon Blackstock and the struggles of gaining weight, and what that can mean in Hollywood

Her call to inspire people showed through in her “thank you” to fans, as she included a message to those who may be struggling to find support from the people around them. She implored her followers to “keep searching” for friends who fill them with laughter, hope, and happiness.

Kelly Clarkson has been a delight to watch over the past 20 years, and her fans are hoping to continue seeing what she does in the next couple of decades — including more long-awaited original music. For now, a big focus is on her talk show, forcing her to take a step back from The Voice, as the former reality competition champion prepares to take over the time slot vacated by Ellen DeGeneres

The Kelly Clarkson Show Season 4 premieres Monday, September 12, so check your local listings to find when and where it plays in your area. Also be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other premieres are coming soon. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.