The Transformation Of Kelly Clarkson From 20 To 38 Years Old

Kelly Clarkson became America's sweetheart on the hit singing competition "American Idol" over two decades ago in 2002. Since then, Clarkson has maintained her status as one of music's most accomplished artists, selling out stadium tours, appearing on hit TV shows like "The Voice," and taking home Grammy awards throughout her storied career.

Clarkson has been living a life full of glitz and glamour for over 20 years, but she was not always used to the fame and fortune of Hollywood. Long before Clarkson dominated the music charts, she was just a little girl from Texas with dreams of making it big. "I'm considerably blessed in my life. I came from nothing, and my life took a whirlwind change overnight," she told People in December 2020. "My life couldn't be any better."

Even though Clarkson feels like the luckiest girl in the world, she has still endured her fair share of trials and tribulations. From the struggles of being in the spotlight, to experiencing love and heartbreak, Clarkson's journey has not always been easy. Still, the beloved songstress has held her head high as she paved her way in Hollywood. Keep scrolling to see Clarkson's breathtaking transformation from her "American Idol" days to now.

Kelly Clarkson rises to fame on American Idol

Kelly Clarkson's life went from a typical Texas 20-year-old to a household name following her win on "American Idol." The "Behind These Hazel Eyes" singer turned into a complete sensation after her very first audition, but she secured her status as a star when she beat out fellow contestant Justin Guarini during the season finale in September 2002. 

Clarkson had no problem showing off her effortless singing voice on the award-winning series, but the songstress dished that she did not actually know she was auditioning for the show. While chatting with host Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on "The Tonight Show" in February 2018, Clarkson recalled the hilarious story of how fame — sort of — found her.

"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]," Clarkson said through laughter. "[Singing was] really the only gift I possessed, so I was like, 'I gotta make money somehow off this,'" she jokingly added. "It could've ended very poorly."

As we know, Clarkson's run on "American Idol" was anything but mediocre. Following her win, the artist made her film debut in "From Justin to Kelly." The box office blunder, which was a requirement per the "American Idol" winner's contract, is something that Clarkson does not look back on fondly. "I just want it to go away," she admitted in a 2015 Time interview.

Kelly Clarkson solidifies her status as an award-winning act

Kelly Clarkson rose to fame on "American Idol," but her musical journey was long from over after she took her final step off the iconic stage. Less than a year after taking home the crown, she released her first studio album titled "Thankful." Clarkson's album featured 12 tracks, including hits like "Miss Independent," "Beautiful Disaster," and a new mix of "A Moment Like This."

Trying to stay away from her "American Idol" roots, Clarkson then released her second studio album, "Breakaway," in 2004. Much different than her previous R&B-style album, "Breakaway" included elements of rock and soul music (via Rolling Stone). "Breakaway" earned Clarkson the reputation she needed to claim her spot in showbiz. Not only did the record receive a positive response from music critics, but it also garnered two Grammy awards and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. 

As the years went on, she released more show-stopping albums, such as "My December" in 2007, "All I Ever Wanted" in 2009, "The Smoakstack Sessions Vol. 1" in 2011, and "The Smoakstack Sessions Vol. 2" the following year in 2012. Though Clarkson was at the peak of her career following the release of her award-winning albums, the notoriety she received was the least of her priorities. "I couldn't give a crap about being a star," she told Elle in 2007 (via Billboard). "I've always just wanted to sing and write."

Kelly Clarkson finds love with Brandon Blackstock

Just as Kelly Clarkson secured her rank on the music charts, exciting things were also happening in her personal life. The TV personality pursued a romance with talent manager Brandon Blackstock in 2012. It did not take long for Clarkson and Blackstock to fall in love, and by December of that year, the couple was engaged (via Country Living).

The following October, in 2013, the lovebirds tied the knot. This made Clarkson a stepmom to Blackstock's two children, Savannah and Seth, whom he shares with ex-wife Melissa Ashworth. In June 2014, Clarkson became a mother herself when she gave birth to the duo's eldest child together, daughter River Rose. Nearly two years later, Clarkson and Blackstock's son, Remington Alexander, arrived in April 2016.

Clarkson juggled her roles as a loving mom and wife with her responsibilities as a singer and songwriter. In between raising her family, Clarkson also pursued new professional opportunities. In May 2017, she made her return to reality TV when NBC announced Clarkson would be joining "The Voice" as a coach (via Variety). Clarkson still focused on her music career and family while starring on "The Voice," and she made her over-the-top busy schedule look effortlessly easy to manage. Unfortunately, things became too much by June 2020, and Clarkson filed for divorce from Blackstock, citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason (via People).

Despite heartbreak, Kelly Clarkson's kids and career keep her going

Fans thought Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock were going to be together forever, but they shocked the world when they ended their marriage after more than seven years. Since then, Clarkson has surrounded herself with her two kids, River and Remington, as well as her close friends, family, and fans. 

"I feel pretty good and happy," she shared during an appearance on "Today" in September 2020. However, Clarkson said her life has felt "a little bit [like] a dumpster" lately, and she did not hold back on the downsides of their split on an episode of "The Kelly Clarkson Show."

In December 2020, six months after filing for divorce, Clarkson candidly opened up about the most difficult part of ending her romance with Blackstock. "The hardest for me is the kids," she confessed on her self-titled talk show, which she began hosting in September 2019. "I think as women we are trained to take it all on and you can deal with it and you're fine, but it's your babies that you worry about."

Clarkson and Blackstock's divorce has been finalized, and a judge granted the singer primary physical custody of River and Remington (via USA Today). Yet, while the split is heartbreaking, Clarkson is not letting the situation control her. Instead, she's focusing on the brighter things in her life — including her adorable children, her iconic career, and the admirable legacy she's left behind in Hollywood so far.

Kelly Clarkson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

In June 2020, The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Kelly Clarkson, alongside 34 others, was in the 2021 class of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While the motion pictures category included stars like Zac Efron, Morris Chestnut, and Josh Brolin, the recording category — which Clarkson was a part of — included rapper Missy Elliott as well as music groups Salt-N-Pepa and The Judds. "We can't wait to see each and every honoree's face as they realize that they are becoming a part of Hollywood's history as we unveil their star on the world's most famous walkway!" the organization said in a statement shared on Facebook (via Variety).

Two years after the announcement, Clarkson officially received the star and was joined at the ceremony by her kids and OG "American Idol" judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul. "She has been an iconic person in American pop culture since she walked onto the first audition stage on 'American Idol' and has continued to impress fans with her musical and talk show prowess," Ana Martinez, producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame said in a press release (via Today).

Speaking in a later interview, Clarkson described the honor as "incredible," adding that it was a lifelong dream come true. "I mean, you know, you've seen these pictures since you were a kid, with all these major people that influenced you artistically in your life, and it's cool to be a part of that," she explained to ET.

Kelly Clarkson in her single era

In March 2022, two years after her filing, Kelly Clarkson's divorce from Brandon Blackstock was finalized. Per The Blast, the singer was ordered to pay $1.3 million and a monthly $45,601 in monthly child support. Additionally, Clarkson was ordered to pay Blackstock $115,000 in spousal support until the end of January 2024. As for their kids, Blackstock and the "Since U Been Gone" singer agreed to share joint custody.

Since her divorce from Blackstock, Clarkson's love life has remained under the radar. During a 2021 appearance on "Love Someone with Delilah," Clarkson revealed she was still open to love, albeit not at the moment. "Maybe in the future, you never know. Well, I do know I won't get married again. But I just mean, you never know about love," she shared on the podcast (via ET). The "Stronger" songstress would later reveal in a January 2024 interview with People that she had never really wanted marriage. "No. I never wanted to get married the first time. [Brandon] had children, a religious background, and it was important, I think, for him. But I've never been that person," Clarkson admitted.

But while marriage is no longer in the plan for the Grammy winner, dating remains just as much of a hassle. "Dating sucks. It's so awkward. I was single until I was, like, 30, and I forgot how really good at that I am," she shared with People. 

Kelly Clarkson changed her legal name

New name, new life! In February 2022, Kelly Clarkson filed a request, asking to ditch her last name and instead be legally recognized as 'Kelly Brianne.' In court documents, Clarkson explained the reason behind her name change, revealing that it "more fully reflects who I am," per Page Six. The "American Idol" alum who legally adopted her husband's last name upon marriage later opened up about the name change, admitting it was linked to her divorce from Brandon Blackstock. "I just got divorced, so I had to drop my married last name," she told People. "I just kept my middle name for my personal life. I'm still Kelly Clarkson." But while the pop star is legally recognized by another name, she acknowledges that it would be hard to get people to call her anything other than Kelly Clarkson. "I don't think I can change Clarkson at this point. I'm 20 years in!" she quipped.

Although she did not cite him as one of the reasons for dropping Clarkson, the singer had been previously open about her strained relationship with her father, Stephen Michael Clarkson. This led fans to speculate on social media. "People can say whatever they want about Kelly Clarkson dropping Clarkson & going by Kelly Brianne, but Clarkson is her father's last name. He walked out & didn't have s*** to do with her. I would have dropped it long before I had gotten as far as she has. He doesn't deserve it," one person tweeted