American Idol Alum Nikki McKibbin Dead at 42

Texas singer Nikki McKibbin, an American Idol season one finalist, has died. She was 42. Find out more about her life and legacy.

By Corinne Heller Nov 01, 2020 10:16 PMTags
Nikki McKibbin, 2002, American IdolKevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX

Texas singer Nikki McKibbin, an American Idol season one finalist, has died. She was 42.

Her husband, Craig Sadler, announced on Facebook on Saturday, Oct. 31 that his wife, who also went by Nikki Sadler, had suffered a brain aneurysm on Wednesday, Oct. 28. E! News learned on Sunday morning that Nikki passed away.

"Nikki considered her most important roles in life to be wife, mother and grandmother," Craig told E! News in a statement. "Of all the amazing things she did, her devotion to her family soars about the rest. Our lives will never be the same without her."

The family is making arrangements for a small, private memorial.

"Nikki would never forgive me if I arranged a large gathering during a pandemic," Craig told E! News. "At some point when it's safer, we will give her a proper celebration of life so that her hundreds of friends can have some closure. We want to have the kind of event she deserves when it's safe."

American Idol paid tribute to Nikki on Twitter.

"Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing," read the post. "She was part of our American Idol family and will be truly missed. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time."

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On Saturday, Craig wrote on Facebook that Nikki was kept on life support for a while because she was an organ donor.

"That shouldn't be a surprise to us," he wrote. "Even at the end she is still giving. She was so loved that I know thousands of you will be grieving with us. There are only a few hours left for me to hold her hand and kiss her forehead."

"The current Covid situation won't allow the huge service that she deserves, but I would like to offer you the opportunity to honor her," he continued. "She will be taken to the OR at 3:00 am Central time to give her final gift that will save the lives of strangers."

He added, "You probably know she practically worshiped Stevie Nicks. Before they begin, they will play 'Landslide' for her one last time. If you are able, you can pause at 3:00 wherever you are and listen to it with her. She will know that you're sharing her farewell. She loved so many of you and I know you loved her too."

Hours later, Craig took to Facebook again to urge people to take in a dog Nikki had recently rescued, adding, "He needs you and Nikki would be relieved to know she'd succeeded in saving him."

In addition to Craig, Nikki is survived by her son, Tristen Cole Langley, 22, who auditioned for season 13 of American Idol, and a granddaughter.

In 2002, Nikki competed on the debut season of American Idol and placed third, after runner-up Justin Guarini and the winner, now-Grammy-winning artist and talk show host, Kelly Clarkson.

"@realnikkimckibbin was a fiery, funny lady who could sing the Hell out of a rock song with the same kind of ease and command she lovingly used to cut you with her twangy Southern wit," Guarini wrote on Instagram on Sunday. "Even in our 20's when we were on American Idol together I could tell that she'd had a challenging life, and that not that many people had been kind to her along the way...but I'll never forget the day that her idol, Stevie Nicks, sent her flowers with a card that said 'You are the Gypsy that I was...'"

"Nikki was on cloud nine and the joy and excitement that radiated from her was infectious," he continued. "After the kind of emotional beating she took at the hands of the masses, she deserved to feel good about herself, even for a little while. ⁣ ⁣ Rest well, 'Gypsy'...and thank you for the laughter, merciless teasing, strength, vulnerability, love and friendship you showed me during our time together in the spotlight. #rip #americanidol."

Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

Paula Abdul, one of the three original American Idol co-judges, also paid tribute to the late show finalist.

"Nikki McKibbin was a strong & spirited woman who always stayed true to who she was," Abdul wrote on Twitter. "She could bring the house down with her powerful voice and captivating stage presence. Our first season of Idol would not have been what it was without her. My love & prayers go out to her family."

During her time on American Idol, Nikki won the hearts of fans with performances of songs like Nicks' "Seventeen," Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet."

In 2008, Nikki starred on season two of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. Three years later, she gave a performance on the fifth season of the reality show to celebrate three years of sobriety.

Watch: In Memoriam: Fallen Stars of 2020

Nikki released her debut single, "To Be With You," in 2006 and her first album, Unleashed, a year later. Nikki would go on to release eight more singles throughout the next few years, as well as an EP, Psychotrip, with the band Love Stricken Demise in 2012.

On Sunday morning, Craig shared on Facebook a recording of Nikki's  single "Inconsolable."

"Thank you everyone for sharing our grief and celebrating Nikki," he wrote. "Of all the songs she ever recorded, this was my favorite. It's never been harder to listen to."

—Reporting by Beth Sobol

(This story was originally published on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 10:19 a.m.)

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