20 Years Ago, Kelly Clarkson Won American Idol & She's Impacted All Of These Celebs' Lives

The Kelly Clarkson Show released a video of famous guests praising her influential career.

American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson after winning the contest at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca....
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Kelly Clarkson is such a star today, it’s sometimes hard to remember that she got her start on the reality series American Idol. Clarkson won the first season of the singing competition show 20 years ago on Sept. 4, 2002, which catapulted her into instant fame. For those who have forgotten or didn’t get to witness Clarkson’s meteoric rise in real time, the Texas-based hopeful stunned audiences with her powerhouse vocals and stage charisma, and won the hearts of the call-in audience who voted for the winners each week. She beat out Justin Guarini in the finals to be crowned American Idol, and the two finalists went on to co-star in the cult classic From Justin to Kelly not long after.

Since then she’s released hit records that spawned karaoke favorites, and most recently began hosting her own talk show The Kelly Clarkson Show. Celebrity guests on the show have been quick to recount their own American Idol memories, specifically detailing how Clarkson has impacted their lives. The likes of Janet Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Hailee Steinfeld, Topher Grace and more admitted to being super-fans of the show’s first winner and have followed her career closely over the past two decades. Neil Patrick Harris added that her finale song “A Moment Like This” was chosen to score his first dance during his wedding to husband David Burtka.

Actors like Lucy Hale and Vanessa Hudgens both credited Clarkson with helping them follow their show biz dreams. After she won, Hudgens said that Clarkson was “the catalyst” for her decision to try out for the next season before fate intervened. “That next week I got an audition for High School Musical and booked it, so then I was like ‘well, nevermind,’” she said, maintaining that she was ready to try her hand at the show if things hadn’t worked out that way. Meanwhile Hale openly admitted that Clarkson was “one of the reasons for her career” after first meeting the Idol during her winning run on the show. “I just fell in love with you,” Hale said. “I auditioned for American Juniors...it’s because of all that, that it led to the acting. I’m gonna say that it’s because of Kelly Clarkson that I’m here.”

Watching American Idol live was an event unto itself and the appointment television forged cross-country bonds for many, including Laura Dern. “I had a friend named Stanley DeSantis...we watched you every week,” Dern recounted. “We would call each other — he lived in Los Angeles and I lived in New York. It was our thing to watch you.” Sadly DeSantis has since passed away but Dern still credits Clarkson as the glue of their friendship. “Every time I see you, I think of him.”

Kelly Clarkson in Season 1 of American Idol. Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

What drew audiences to her was not only her mega-talent, but also her down-to-earth, bubbly personality. And it’s apparent that she’s forged long-lasting bonds with some of the original people she got her start with. Ryan Seacrest, who made a name for himself as the show’s host gushed, “Times have changed — you’re hosting the show now and I’m just the guest. This is so exciting. I’m so happy, so proud.” Simon Cowell, one of the three original judges of the show who was branded as the hardest to please, also offered a genuine compliment to the star: “Unlike the majority, you’re the same person off-camera as you are on-camera. You’re very loyal and a great friend.”

Don’t mind us, we’ll be over here weeping.