9 Things From 'American Idol's Early Days That Made Us Love Kelly Clarkson

After 15 seasons, American Idol is ending its run as one of the most wildly successful music competitions to grace the land of reality television. Since its debut in the early 2000s, we've seen a rotation of judges, on-and-offset dramas, and — more importantly — a catalyst to the careers of superstars like Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, and Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson was Idol's Season 1 winner, and for those who weren't privy to the show's early days, it may come as a surprise that the "Heartbeat Song" superstar's early fame was rooted in reality TV. Although she's garnered international fame, Clarkson hasn't veered from her humility and the ability to be a seeming beacon of awesomeness we all want to be best friends with. She has made various appearances on Idol since claiming her throne over a decade ago, and still offers the series many accolades.

As Idol's final season will serve as a proverbial swan song, it seems fitting that we look back at the show's past, and how Clarkson was instrumental in catapulting the series to worldwide success. I remember being blown away by Clarkson every week when watching her on Idol's first season, and yes, "A Moment Like This" still remains a fixture on my iTunes. Let's take a look back at nine awesome moments from Clarkson's Idol days:

Her Friendly Competition With Justin Guarini

Sure, they were both vying for the same title, but these two were the quintessence of the phrase "friendly competition." Remember how sweet Guarini was when Clarkson was announced as the winner? Aww!

Her Audition Blew Us All Away

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Clarkson was understandably nervous before her original Idol audition — seeing "all nine girls" before her come out crying will do that. Obviously, Clarkson blew all three judges — even acerbic Simon Cowell — away with her powerful pipes during an a cappella rendition of Etta James' "At Last". And the part where she and Randy Jackson switched places for a hot minute? Priceless!

Her Performance of "Natural Woman"

Kelly Projection on YouTube

So good, right? SO. GOOD. Clarkson showcased every part of her range, belting out this soulful hit and hitting the highest of all high notes. The performance inspired a fan to rush the stage to give Clarkson a bouquet of roses, and even Cowell couldn't hold back from praising her inimitable talent.

Her Performance of "A Moment Like This"

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This song — written especially for the first Idol finale — was practically made for Clarkson, and was also featured on her debut album.

The Subsequent "A Moment Like This" Music Video

kellyclarksonVEVO on YouTube

Clarkson had already proven herself to be a star during her time on Idol, but her debut music video for "A Music Like This" pretty much sealed the fact that we were going to be hearing much, much more from this songstress following her reality TV fame.

This Hairstyle

Remember this hairstyle? I personally loved the early 2000s look of chunky blonde streaks. Why pick between two different hair colors when you can have both?

When "Miss Independent" Happened

kellyclarksonVEVO on YouTube

I won't deny it: I still find myself screaming "YAS!" every time "Miss Independent" comes on the radio. This was one of Clarkson's very first hits while she was still known as an Idol winner.

Her Performance Of "I Surrender"

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Other than finding this performance absolutely amazing, I am also wondering where I can order a replica of that dress — #fierce.

Her Crowning Moment & Performance

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With much tearful enthusiasm and humility, Clarkson accepted her win as the first American Idol. Can we talk for a second how adorable that "Eek!" Clarkson gave at the beginning of "A Moment Like This" was? Love it!

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