Sept. 4, 2002

Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this — or an inflated two hours. America got its first ever Idol when Texas gal Kelly Clarkson bested the follically blessed Justin Guarini for the inaguaral American Idol crown. And then a star was born.

After weeping through "A Moment Like This," Kelly will go on to set a Billboard Hot 100 record for biggest jump to No. 1 (which has since been broken), sell more than 10 million albums worldwide, star in a the second biggest movie bust of 2003 (first being Gigli), score two Grammys, get a shout-out from a 40-Year-Old Virgin and piss off Clive Davis — all in a five-year span. But it all started for the cocktail waitress on the very first AI stage, when the Top 12 was the Top 10 and Brian Dunkleman still had a job.

A favorite from the beginning, Kelly is one of the few Idols who never frequented the dreaded bottom three during her entire run. Still, pundits had her as the underdog against Justin. In the end, the big belter triumped with 53 percent of the vote. Which was your favorite Kelly performance on the show? For me, it was "Stuff Like That There" from Big Band Week.

By Joyce Eng

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