She was born Kelly Brianne Clarkson in Fort Worth, Texas. She later moved to Burleson, Texas. As a child, Clarkson aspired to be a marine biologist. The movie Jaws dissuaded her. In middle school, she was overheard singing in a school corridor by a teacher who invited her to join the school choir. Her participation in choral and musical activities spurred her interest in a recording career and, following her high school graduation, she relocated to Los Angeles, California.
Clarkson landed a job as a an extra on television (one such appearance was on Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and worked briefly with songwriter Gerry Goffin. After her Los Angeles apartment burned down, however, she moved back to Texas discouraged, but still intent on a career in show business.
Clarkson rose to fame on the United States TV program American Idol. Before her run on that show, she managed some odd jobs. She worked as a cocktail waitress, a promo girl for Red Bull, at a movie theater (where the premiere of her movie, From Justin to Kelly, was later held), in a pharmacy, at Chili's, the Fort Worth Zoo, as a telemarketer, sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door for a day, and did other jobs as well.
In 2002, along with ten thousand others, Clarkson auditioned for the aforementioned American Idol. Impressed by her voice and personality, the panel of judges put her through to the next round. Upon landing a final 30 spot, Kelly garnered praise from the judges with her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect". She moved on to the final 10, receiving a #2 spot in her group. On September 4, 2002, Clarkson won the competition, earning 58% of the audience vote in the final contest against Justin Guarini. She was the only contestant to have never landed in the bottom three. As the newly-crowned "American Idol," Clarkson performed "A Moment Like This" as confetti fell. Her fellow contestants hugged her as many watched in the Kodak Theatre and in their homes.
Clarkson's first single set an American record, rising on October 5, 2002, from No. 52 to No. 1 on the Billboard charts (a record previously held by The Beatles with Can't Buy Me Love). Her first full-length album, Thankful, was released by RCA Records on April 15, 2003, and was certified as "double platinum", signifying over two million sales in the US by the RIAA.
Clarkson starred with fellow American Idol contestant Justin Guarini in From Justin to Kelly (2003). Both the film and Clarkson's performance were given savage reviews, and the movie was a box office disaster.
- 2002 "A Moment Like This" #1 US
- 2003 "Miss Independent" #9 US, #6 UK
- 2003 "Low / The Trouble with Love is" #35 UK
- 2004 "Breakaway" #9 US