When fans first met Kelly Clarkson on American Idol, she came across as a bright and cheery person with big dreams to fulfill. Clarkson’s sweet persona stuck around after she won the reality competition series on Sept. 4, 2002, and she soon ascended to the top of the music industry’s food chain with hits like “A Moment Like This.” Though Clarkson usually has an upbeat attitude, she showed another side of herself when she released “Because of You” years later. Were the song’s emotional lyrics hinting at the singer’s sad past?
Of course, Clarkson is as layered as any other celebrity out there, though her background is sadder than some, given her numerous struggles throughout childhood and adulthood. Take Clarkson’s fractured relationship with her biological father, for instance. The Grammy winner does not have a relationship with her dad, and their estrangement may have even once hampered her ability to form meaningful relationships.
Grab a box of tissues and let’s dissect the tragic real-life story of Kelly Clarkson.
Clarkson’s hit “Because of You” is chock full of heartbreaking lyrics. “Because of you / I never stray too far from the sidewalk,” she croons in one verse. “Because of you / I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt.”
Sadly, this painful ballad is about Clarkson’s biological father, Stephen Michael Clarkson, and her parents’ messy divorce (per MTV News). Stephen failed to keep in touch after he split from Clarkson’s mom when she was 6 years old, a devastating blow for any child. Clarkson tried to reach out to Stephen herself, but she was reportedly rejected multiple times in what she referred to as a “humiliating” effort. during during a November 2017 interview with Skavlan, she even referred to her relationship with her dad as “toxic,” and questioned whether he was even “capable [of love].”
Clarkson, however, has a healthy outlook about her history with her father. “I know a lot of people go, ‘Aww,’ but it’s not really that situation,” she explained. “I think If you don’t grow up with it, it’s hard to miss something you never had.”
The lingering effects of divorce
Given Kelly Clarkson’s non-existent relationship with her dad, it’s really no surprise that her parents’ divorce left a lasting impact on her life. Making matters even more difficult? Clarkson’s mother, Jeanne, split from her second husband when the singer was 19 years old, according to the Mirror.
Witnessing a string of failed relationships within her family led Clarkson to question whether lasting love is possible. “Divorce isn’t fun,” Clarkson told the Mirror in January 2012. “It affects relationships you get into when you are older. I think you have to work a little harder because you’re constantly thinking it’s probably not going to work out in the end.”
Luckily for Clarkson, her husband, Brandon Blackstock, restored her faith in relationships in more ways than one. “This isn’t a downer to anybody I dated before him, but I’m just going to be real: I never felt like, [honestly], sexually attracted to anybody before him,” Clarkson revealed during a private show for SiriusXM listeners in November 2017, according to People. She noted, “There was something about him.”
Homelessness and financial woes
Before Clarkson made it big, she was homeless for a short period of time. Pretty shocking, right? It’s especially wild to think about when you consider that Clarkson’s net worth is reportedly $28 million as of January 2019.
Her brief stint on the streets happened right around the time she auditioned for American Idol. Sharing that she’d lost her apartment to a fire, Clarkson told The Guardian in October 2011, “I had to move home, I had no money and I had to sleep in my car for three days. I just auditioned for this thing that said they’d pay you, and it happened to be American Idol. I didn’t go into it thinking this would happen; I went into it thinking it might pay my electric bill.”
Surprisingly, that wasn’t the first time Clarkson faced financial hardship. In a June 2015 interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Clarkson opened up about how her family once lived “pre-paycheck to pre-paycheck” growing up. Regarding her outlook on finances, she said, “I definitely had this whole mentality, I was like, ‘Whatever I’m gonna do, I just don’t want to have to worry that.'”
Fat-shaming throughout her career
It’s no secret that Hollywood places an emphasis on looks. Someone who knows this all too well is Clarkson, who has been body-shamed throughout her career. The singer first experienced this sad reality during American Idol. She told People, “Even on American Idol I was really thin, but I was bigger than the other girls on the show, so people would say things to me.”
Fortunately, Clarkson didn’t pay her haters any attention. “But luckily I am superconfident, so I’ve never had a problem with shutting people down and saying, ‘Yeah, you know, that’s just what I’m rocking. It’s fine,'” she said.
Clarkson’s confidence aside, it’s still upsetting that she continues to face criticism post-Idol. One example of this is when Fox News’ Chris Wallace fat-shamed Clarkson during an an interview on The Mike Gallagher Show. “She could stay off the deep-dish pizza for a little while,” Wallace told Gallagher (via The Hollywood Reporter). Sheesh.
Clarkson also experiences hate on social media. One time, a Twitter user called Clarkson “fat” after she shared a 2017 Fourth of July message, as reported by Rolling Stone. Clarkson smoothly responded, “….and still f***ing awesome.” Get ’em, girl.
Dealing with suicidal thoughts
Some of Clarkson’s most dedicated supporters might be heartbroken to learn that the singer contemplated suicide during a particularly “dark” period in her life. Although Clarkson didn’t reveal exactly when this happened, she admitted that she was “really skinny” at the time. “When I was really skinny, I wanted to kill myself. I was miserable, like inside and out, for four years of my life,” she explained to Attitude (via NME). “But no one cared, because aesthetically you make sense.”
To deal with the stress, Clarkson sought refuge in physical fitness. “It was a very dark time for me,” Clarkson elaborated. “I thought the only way out was quitting. I like wrecked my knees and my feet because all I would do is put in headphones and run. I was at the gym all the time.”
While many people assumed that Clarkson became suicidal due to body image issues, this wasn’t the case. “Just to clear something up. I wasn’t ever miserable because I had to be thin,” she explained via Twitter. “I said I was miserable & as a result I became thin.” She further explained that she’d never thought to take her own life because of her size, noting, “I said people had no idea I was unhappy oddly enough because I appeared healthy.”