Once upon a time, Kelly Clarkson's big dream was to be a backup singer.
"Yeah, that died," the three-time Grammy winner cracked on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in September 2020. But basically, she explained, she was just such a big fan of so many types of music, she "thought it'd be cool to get to travel with different artists and go all over the world and sing different genres."
As they say, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes... you end up winning American Idol and spend the next 20 years giving millions of fans what they need. (Though she also once thought that competing on the show might be her ticket to becoming someone's backup singer.)
Yet Clarkson can't help that her voice was destined for solo greatness. And we don't just mean the musical one.
Along with the wildly successful recording career—right out of the gate, her debut album Breakaway sold 12 million copies—Clarkson has spent the past two decades fighting for her artistic vision, staying true to who she is, taking risks (wait, what, host a talk show?) and calling out the B.S. she's encountered along the way.
And there's been plenty of that.
Let's say half of 2020 was about emotionally detoxing in the wake of filing for divorce from her husband Brandon Blackstock that June after almost seven years of marriage. In the months that followed, the mother of daughter River Rose, 7, and son Remy Alexander, 6, wasn't too shy to admit that life was "a little bit of a dumpster" and on some days she was barely muddling through.
This past year, however, has been dedicated to not just picking up the pieces, but about reassembling them in a way more befitting of the life she's earned and is once again free to live on her own terms.
No, we're not saying that now she gets what she wants, you are.
Whether that includes dating anytime soon is TBD, Clarkson having been refreshingly honest about how not excited she is about that part of being single. Talking about that post-split rebuilding process with Gwyneth Paltrow on The Kelly Clarkson Show in March 2021, the host said, "I'm actually in that place where I think a lot of people, I've heard, that go through divorce, it's almost like you start dating yourself again, like you actually make time for you again, and I love dating me. I'm actually not looking for it."
Frankly, that relationship she's been cultivating with herself has been going great. In October she released her ninth studio album, When Christmas Comes Around..., hosted a Yuletide special to ring in the holidays in December, and lately she's been co-emceeing NBC's American Song Contest with Snoop Dogg (watch your back, Martha), all while helming the third season of her much-loved talk show.
She's also two-for-two in Daytime Emmy wins for Outstanding Talk Show Host, and the whole venture was named Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show last June, a good indicator that someone knew what they were doing when her eponymous show was picked to move into The Ellen DeGeneres Show's plum afternoon time slot after it signs off at the end of its current season after 19 years.
No wonder Clarkson wasn't planning a rager for her 40th birthday April 24.
"I am literally so low-key," she told E! News after the April 18 episode of ASC. "I know it's my big 4-0, but I've had a crazy two years, so I just wanted a chill birthday."
Asked what that might entail, she shared, "I'm going hiking with my friends, and that's it y'all. And we're doing a dinner with my band, so that's it."
Now we're just wondering if the Wayfair brand ambassador is hosting in her presumably well-appointed new space.
After unloading the Nashville-area mansion she used to share with Blackstock last summer, Clarkson and her kids (she has primary physical custody and their dad has visitation rights and joint legal custody) settled into a new $5.4 million home in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.
Boasting five bedrooms and a huge backyard with a pool, the 5,000-square-foot home is a short drive—for real, not just relative to L.A. traffic—from where she shoots her show and The Voice, so that's less time in the car and more spent with River and Remy.
And when she's with her daughter and son, as she described "single-momming it" to Fallon in 2020, she's "really present" and "hyper-focused," meaning no phone and no TV on when they're busy with activities. (Which is why she didn't even know she'd won her first Emmy that year and thought her executive producer was just calling to compliment her on being "the best host.")
She did follow her dual wins last summer (she's also an executive producer so she shared in the best talk show honor) by taking her kids to Disney World, and in August Clarkson treated herself to a girls' trip to Vegas.
While first she had to file the paperwork to legally go back to being Kelly Clarkson, which she did last August, in February she petitioned to drop that vestige of the past and go by Kelly Brianne, a name that "more fully reflects who I am," her filing contended.
A judge signed off on the change March 28. And whatever that means to the entertainer at her core, it's a sign that she's ready now for her next chapter.