Kelly Clarkson: From pop star to reigning talk show queen

After winning seven Emmys in a year, the actress and singer takes on a new role as a morning show host, marking a new phase for the artist after a tough divorce

Kelly Clarkson on the set of her program 'The Kelly Clarkson Show'.
Kelly Clarkson on the set of her program 'The Kelly Clarkson Show'.NBC (NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

How right was the reviewer for The New York Times who wrote that Kelly Clarkson’s voice was a “soul siren.” The soprano first stood out as a winner of American Idol. Then came the albums, the tours, the Grammys, the fame, the flirtations with acting and her time on The Voice. She landed one success after another, gaining fans bewitched by her siren song, until becoming the host of her own program, The Kelly Clarkson Show. The broadcast became a standout at the Emmy Awards for daytime programming, winning a total of seven statuettes in a single year, including Best Talk Show and Best Host. That’s more Emmys in a single year than the three Grammys she has won for a recording career that includes albums like Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) and Breakaway. It also was more statuettes in one fell swoop than the hitherto talk show queen, Ellen DeGeneres, who was not even nominated this year.

Clarkson did not attend the July 24 awards gala in Pasadena. But her absence was not because of arrogance: the singer is on vacation for the first time in 16 years, along with her children River Rose, age eight, and Remington “Remy” Alexander, age six. Not even her official coronation as queen of the talk-show changed their family vacation plans.

When she returns, she will embark on her career’s newest challenge: inheriting Degeneres’s prime time slot now that The Ellen DeGeneres Show has concluded its run after 19 seasons. These are times of change for the 40-year-old Texas- born performer and artist. Her desire for the program is to show a kinder and better face of humanity, “that for the rest there is already the news, which is depressing”.

She is starting not only a new program, but also a new life. Clarkson is saying goodbye to her appearance on the game show The Voice, as well as to her former agent and husband, Brandon Blackstock. It took her two years to divorce the stepson of fellow singer Reba McEntire. He made it difficult for Clarkson until the end, when he barricaded himself in the Montana ranch that Clarkson bought for just over $10 million dollars (€9.8 million). Throwing him out cost the singer €1.25 million before taxes, in addition to 5.12% of the value of the mansion, the €109,000 per month of spousal support that she will have to pay him until 2024 and almost €43,000 per month for child support until the children come of age.

The figures are high. But Clarkson’s work as a singer and television host earns her over €21 million each year. She has also legally changed her name to Kelly Brianne, which she says “more fully reflects” who she is. Professionally, she will keep the name Clarkson because, as she told the press, it’s a bit late to change it after 20 years of success.

Nor does she plan to change her style. Both personally and professionally, music is everything to her. It was her refuge during these two years of divorce. She used music to process her emotions, as demonstrated by the jabs she made at her ex-husband during her performance of “Happier Than Ever,” in which the lyrics of Billie Eilish’s song. The Kelly Clarkson Show wouldn’t be the same without Kellyoke, the karaoke segment in which she performed more than 500 songs over three seasons of the program.

Kelly Clarkson and actresses Susan Kelechi Watson and Jessica Biel during their guest appearance on her morning talk show.
Kelly Clarkson and actresses Susan Kelechi Watson and Jessica Biel during their guest appearance on her morning talk show.NBC (NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

We will have to wait until September to discover how her program will change in its new iteration. Her new time slot is more than just a change in the television schedule. It is an attempt to bring the spirit of American Idol to the talk-show format much in need of reform. NBC hopes for the program to connect “with people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds,” like Clarkson’s sweet yet confident voice did two decades ago on American Idol.

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