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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
America's newest pop star
Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson is a former waitress from Burleson, Texas
The winner of American Idol, a nationwide search for a US singing sensation, has gone from obscurity to fame in a matter of weeks.

Three months ago, nobody had heard of Kelly Clarkson, a 20-year-old cocktail waitress from Burleson, Texas.

Now, though, the girl who has been crowned American Idol has become a household name in the US, and assured herself the same kind of success that Pop Idol winner Will Young has enjoyed in the UK.

Clarkson, who beat off competition from fellow finalist Justin Guarini with her version of Aretha Franklin's Respect, was described by Simon Cowell as "the best singer in the competition".

"It was a one sided competition as far as I was concerned because Kelly, without question, was the better singer".
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini
More than 15 million people voted for Clarkson and Guarini

"The audience were witnessing a star," Cowell admitted.. "It was like that movie, A Star is Born".

Clarkson charmed audiences with her versions of It's Raining Men, Walk On By, Without You and Think Twice, among others.

A recording contract now awaits her, with Before Your Love - one of the songs specially written and performed by the two finalists on the show - to be released on 17 September.

An album, which will reportedly include a duet with Guarini, will be released in November.

And Clarkson will also join the planned American Idol tour of the US which, like the UK's Pop Idol tour, will feature all ten of the finalists.

Back home in Burleson, a small town just outside Fort Worth, support for Clarkson reached fever pitch.
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini
The two finalists sang a duet on the show

Anxious and excited

Around 2,000 of the town's 20,000 population crammed into the gym at the local high school to watch the girl known as the "hometown idol" triumph.

Hundreds more swamped a local pizza parlour showing the programme.

Backstage at the show, Clarkson herself admitted that she had not heard her name being called.

"I didn't actually hear them say I won," she said, "Justin just hugged me. I feel a little bit of everything - anxious and excited."
Will Young and Kelly Clarkson
UK's Pop Idol Will Young and Clarkson sang together

Guarini has also been full of praise for his fellow finalist, saying that she deserved her victory. "I can't sing those songs nearly as good as she can."

And Clarkson herself has left the public in no doubt as to what inspired her to take part in the contest.

"Being on a stage in front of millions is the biggest rush for me. It's like I'm kind of nervous at first, but once I get out there I never want to leave the stage."

"Also," she added, "I think that the industry could use a little class."

Her success in the US is of course guaranteed - the show has been one of the biggest hits of the summer, with over 18 million people tuning in to the final.

But with Cowell's assertion that Clarkson is a "world-class" celebrity, global domination may well follow.

See also:

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