Inside Kelly Clarkson's Most Transformative Year Yet

Knowing she needed a change, Kelly Clarkson packed up her two kids and her talk show and remade her life in New York, using the pursuit of happiness as her guide.

By Natalie Finn Apr 24, 2024 12:00 PMTags
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When Kelly Clarkson is ready for a change, she doesn't mess around.

Increasingly unhappy in Los Angeles, where her Emmy-winning talk show had been based since 2019, the "Stronger" singer followed her internal compass to New York last year—not even knowing if a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan like her could truly feel at home—and hasn't looked back. 

"Sometimes you don't know what life has in store for you," Clarkson told People in January, "and you think your life is going to go one way, and it's okay that it doesn't. You never know how beautiful that might be."

She was, of course, talking about more than heading east.

The Grammy winner, who is celebrating her 42nd birthday April 24, had to regroup piece by piece following her drawn-out divorce from Brandon Blackstock (which, despite being finalized in 2022, is still playing out in court). And she was left in dire need of new surroundings for her and the kids she shares with her ex, daughter River Rose, 9, and son Remington "Remy" Alexander, 8.

"For the past few years I'd just been showing up and smiling and doing what I'm supposed to do," Clarkson said, "but you can only compartmentalize so long until you break."

Kelly Clarkson Through the Years

As it turns out, though, life doesn't suck once you're free from a situation that was holding you back, personally or geographically.

Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

"If you're on the same path at the same time—and you're actually working together, and every day communicating together and doing the work—I think that [marriage] could be beautiful," Clarkson reflected last year on Glennon Doyle's We Can Do Hard Things podcast. "But for me, it wasn't that and it was very limiting."

She pointed to her own ego as to why she stayed married for seven years despite what felt like a constant game of "tug-of-war" between her and Blackstock.

"I'm like, 'I can do this. I can handle so much,'" she explained. "My ego is like, 'I can control my actions. I can control my reactions. I can do this, and I can reach this person and I can get through.' And it becomes a little bit of your ego that gets in the way."

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But she did eventually reach her breakaway point, filing for divorce in 2020. And finally feeling whole, she's been in no rush to become half of a couple again. 

"Not that I'm against it," she told E! News last June about getting back into the dating game. "I'm not, like, bitter or, 'Oh, I'm still broken.' I'm not mad at all. I'm very happy. I'm in a great place. But you know, I've lost a bit of me, like in my previous relationship, and I love having her back."

But while she is open to meeting Mr. Right if he comes along ("I'm just not looking"), Clarkson's thoughts on getting remarried lean toward never again.

"I never wanted to get married the first time," she told People. It was important to Blackstock, she noted, "but I've never been that person. Because I've been through a couple divorces in my family, I just don't like to put any weight on it. It can happen; it doesn't have to happen. For my kids, I definitely would never even think about it until they're out of my house."

Which may be a more permanent abode by then, but for now her home is a rental that's walking distance from Central Park and The Kelly Clarkson Show's 30 Rock studio.

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

"I was like, 'I'm not living here unless it's right by the park and really nice for the kids,'" Clarkson told USA Today in October. She admittedly would have picked Montana, where she already owns a home, "but you can't really do a show from there quite yet. So I was like, 'The only other option would probably be New York.'"

Taking that leap of faith, which also included leaving L.A.-based The Voice last spring after a total of nine seasons, has been well worth it.

"I am in such a great place, not only with my kids, but with me personally and with the show," Clarkson continued. "I feel like a weight has lifted. That move was very needed. I think the thing I'm most excited about...on a selfish level, is just showing up to work smiling and actually meaning it. That's a beautiful gift that you don't realize until you're out of it."

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Though you could probably tell just by looking at the ever-radiant star—who has shared that being diagnosed as pre-diabetic inspired her to finally heed her doctor's advice and shed some weight—that the Big Apple agrees with her. (And she made sure to catch the Cowboys when they were in town playing the Giants.)

"I did not think I was gonna love it so much, but you will see this face all the time at the park," Clarkson, who's credited all that walking with helping her get fit, gushed on TODAY in September. "My kids love it, they love getting on the subway. My son doesn't allow us to stand near him, so he looks like he's by himself."

But chalk up Remy acting like Mr. Independent to the city's charms. He "walked out of the school here and was like, 'This is where I should be,'" Clarkson told People. "So it's amazing that work is going well, but as a mom, that's a win for your kid."

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Even better, of course, is work and family going hand in hand, such as when Remy and River joined her onstage during her Las Vegas residency last summer, or her daughter contributing vocals to "You Don't Make Me Cry," off the deluxe version of her 10th studio album, Chemistry, which came out last June.

"They both are little entertainers," Clarkson told E! News. "They love pretend. They love make believe and creating worlds." Hence her phone being full of videos of Remy (who accompanied Mom to the Grammys in February) and River "dancing or singing or acting or doing something in the house."

Whether they follow her footsteps into showbiz or not, the singer relishes being able to "just show them everything that you think might be helpful and see where they go."

And in the meantime, Clarkson has set her compass toward happiness and is staying the course.

"I think it's what you surround yourself with," she said on TODAY. "Making sure you're surrounding yourself with people that you share similar things, obviously people that progress you as well, as a human. Like, what makes you happy? And if it doesn't make you happy, just stop doing it." 

Which she knows from experience is easier said than done.

Kelly Clarkson's Best Candid Moments

"Moving here has helped," she added, as did exorcising her divorce demons through Chemistry.

"I've always written from a very personal, raw place," Clarkson said, but "super-personal" tracks like "Me" and "Mine" showcased her evolved skills as an artist—and as a person. "I think as we all progress as humans, you mature and your sound is different. What you have to say is different, it holds different gravity."

But, she acknowledged, "it's a hard record. It was hard to make."

Not just because it meant revisiting heartbreak, either, but "because I didn't want it to be a divorce album," she explained. "I wanted it to be a relationship album. So there's good stuff on there, like 'Favorite Kind of High.' It wasn't all bad. I wanted to celebrate that as a whole."

And yet, Clarkson added, "For the most part it's sad. That's how I work through what's going on with me."

Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

So perhaps her next album will be called "Happy Days Are Here Again," at least in spirit. (Though we wouldn't object to more Barbra Streisand covers if she so desires.)

Life is "so full in the best of ways," Clarkson told People. "It could be full of chaos—because it has been at times—and it's not. It's just full in the most beautiful ways. Everything is hitting on all cylinders."

Meanwhile, we know all you ever wanted was more family snaps, so keep reading to see the sweetest pics from Clarkson's beautiful world with Remy and River:

Backstage Fun

Kelly shared this pic of her kids River and Remy backstage at her Las Vegas residency show Aug. 18, just before they joined their mom separately onstage for surprise appearances.

Visiting Mom at Work

River and Remy appear with Kelly and celebrity guest Jason Momoa on The Kelly Clarkson Show

Star Sighting

River and Remy join their mom as she receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2022.

Howdy, Partner

Who doesn't love a day at Disneyland with mom?

In Charge

River and Remy are here to help put out fires and solve crime!

Road Trip!

Running errands is way more fun when you have these two bundle of joys in the back seat.

Lake Life

In June 2018, Kelly Clarkson enjoyed some fun in the sun with her two kids, Remy and River Rose

Disco Diva

River is already taking after her mom when it comes to performing, and Kelly couldn't be any more proud.

Girls on Set

When making her music video in 2017, the Texas native brought her daughter along for some behind-the-scenes fun.

Flying High

"NYC y'all ain't ready for Remy B......I'M SO EXCITED!!!!!!" Kelly captioned this adorable snap of her little man.

Make Up Free

Kelly was all smiles as she took this selfie with her daughter and pointed out that she was makeup-free in it.


In May 2017, the fam took in a Nashville Predators hockey game and they even rocked matching jerseys. 

Three Generations

For Mother's Day, the 37-year-old singer gave her mom a sweet shout out alongside this adorable photo of the three generations of women in her life.


Ugh, could this be any cuter of an Easter moment?

Remy's Day

Remy's first birthday was a total blast and included a massive cake!

Happy Holiday

Kelly and River braved the Tennessee winter temps to be a part of the Nashville Christmas Parade in 2016 and seriously, they're so stinking cute.


Play Time

While on a visit to Washington D.C., Kelly's little ones got a ride on a blanket courtesy of their half-brother Seth.

Teepee Time

To celebrate the launch of her children's book, the mom of two shared this adorable snap of her and her daughter.

Famous Friends

What little one hasn't hung out with Jimmy Fallon?

Mamma's Girl

In October 2014, the singer shared her first photo of daughter River Rose.