On Sept. 3, 2002, Clarkson was crowned the first winner of American Idol.

By Nick Romano
September 04, 2020 at 11:50 AM EDT
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It's been 18 years since the very first season of American Idol concluded in 2002 and crowned Kelly Clarkson the victor, forever changing her life and starting her career as a mega pop star. Technically, the anniversary was Thursday, Sept. 3, but Clarkson commemorated the occasion on social media a day later.

"18 years ago today was the finale of the first season of American Idol and it changed my life!" Clarkson tweeted. "I’m still hustlin 18 years later because I know I am blessed to have the opportunities and I still love my purpose! Find your purpose! Seek out what keeps that fire in you burning."

The audition that started it all was Clarkson singing a rendition of Etta James' "At Last" and Madonna's "Express Yourself" for original judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell. It ended with Jackson swapping places with Clarkson so he could audition for Idol himself... and, also, sending Clarkson through to Hollywood on the condition that she tell host Ryan Seacrest that "he needs to redo his highlights," as directed by Cowell.

These days, Clarkson can be seen as a coach on The Voice and the host of her own daytime talk-show, where she still turns out cover songs on a near-daily basis. She'll also host the upcoming Billboard Music Awards on Oct. 14.

The new version of American Idol with judges Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie, and Luke Bryan embarks on a fourth season with a virtual talent-scouting tour of the U.S.

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Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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  • 16
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  • ABC

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