Born in the town of Burleson, Texas, Kelly Clarkson as a child aspired to be a marine biologist before the movie Jaws dissuaded her. In middle school, Clarkson was overheard singing in a school corridor by a teacher who invited her to join the school choir. Her participation in choral and musical activities spurred her interested in a recording career, and, following her high school graduation, Kelly relocated to Los Angeles, California.
Clarkson landed a job as a television extra in Los Angeles and worked briefly with songwriter Gerry Goffin. However, after her L.A. apartment burned down, she moved back to Texas, discouraged, but still intent on a career in showbusiness.
Clarkson managed some odd jobs before her run on American Idol. In 2002, along with 10,000 others, Clarkson auditioned for the aforementioned television show, American Idol. Impressed by her voice and personality, the panel of judges put her through to the next round. Upon landing a final 30 spot, Kelly garnered praise from the judges with her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect." She moved on to the final 12, receiving a #2 spot in her group of 10. On September 4, 2002 Clarkson won the competition, earning 58% of the audience vote in the final contest against Justin Guarini. She was the only contestant to have never landed in the bottom three. As the crowned American Idol, Clarkson performed a heartfelt and tearful "A Moment Like This" as confetti fell, her fellow contestants hugged her, and many watched in the Kodak Theatre and in their households.
Clarkson's first single set an American record, rising on October 5th, 2002 from No. 52 to No. 1 on the Billboard charts (a record previously held by The Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love"). Her first full-length album, Thankful, was released on April 15, 2003.
Kelly Clarkson starred with fellow American Idol contestant Justin Guarini in the 2003 box office flop From Justin to Kelly.