The winner of Fox TV's first American Idol: The Search for a Superstar competition during the summer of 2002, Kelly Clarkson went from an anonymous talent to a nationally known singer, performing for an audience of millions of viewers. One of the show's most naturally gifted singers, the 20-year-old Texas native's vocal talents were discovered when she was in seventh grade, when her school's choir teacher heard her singing and urged Clarkson to join the choir. After high school, Clarkson cultivated her voice and went to Hollywood to make her name; she appeared as an extra on an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but no other opportunities materialized.
Upon returning to Burleson, Clarkson worked at a movie theater, promoted Red Bull energy drinks, and ultimately worked as a cocktail waitress at a comedy club before entering the American Idol contest. One of 10,000 aspiring singers, Clarkson distinguished herself not only with her big, surprisingly mature voice, but also with her down-to-earth charm and sense of humor; at one of her auditions, she switched places with judge Randy Jackson, who did an impromptu version of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Over the course of the 13-week show, her consistently strong performances of songs like "Respect," "Natural Woman," "Stuff Like That There," and "Without You" earned Clarkson enough audience votes to claim one of the contest's two finalist positions. After singing "A Moment Like This" and "Before Your Love," both of which were written for the show, Clarkson won the American Idol contest with 58 percent of the audience's votes. In addition to the show's prize of one million dollars and a recording contract with RCA, Clarkson secured a deal with Creative Artists Agency and several bookings, including the national American Idol tour and a performance of the national anthem at the September 11 commemoration at Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial.
Despite her newfound fame, Clarkson opted to remain in Texas rather than move to New York or Los Angeles. She would try a modest hand at acting in movies like the notorious From Justin to Kelly and on shows like American Dreams, but Clarkston would mostly remain a force in the realm of music.
Singles like "A Moment Like This", "Because of You", "Behind These Hazel Eyes,", "Since U Been Gone", "Never Again", "My Life Would Suck Without You", and "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" would keep the diva at the forefront of contemporary vocal music. She released her first greatest hits album in 2012, and her seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, in 2015, which went to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts. Though heavily pregnant with her second child, she found time to return to her roots for the final season of American Idol in 2016, appearing as a guest judge early in the season, and pre-recording a medley of her hits for the finale.