As she launches the second season of “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” the host of the daytime talk show finds herself in an unusual position — admitting that she needed to be persuaded to take the gig in the first place.
“I will be completely honest, and I have been since the beginning: I did not want this job,” she said. “I say that it’s the dream I didn’t know I had.”
In retrospect, she’s glad she agreed to do the show — not for the fame and fortune involved, but because of the connection it has given her with viewers who are struggling through uncertain times.
“I talk to so many people, and not just celebrities. I’ve talked to the people that have been hit hardest in all of this — financially, emotionally, mentally. ... It’s really the everyday people on this show that have just lifted my spirits when I’ve been feeling like, ‘Oh my God, nothing else could possibly go wrong at this point, like, send in the locusts.’ ”
That Clarkson, a superstar TV helped create, would find a second wave of career success in television isn’t all that surprising. Eighteen years after 15.5 million viewers voted the Texas native the first “American Idol,” many of those same fans are tuning in to her now.
She has emerged as a bright spot in the increasingly hard-to-crack daytime talk show field. Last year, the program was the most-watched new talk show in seven years, averaging more than 1.6 million viewers daily. And she won a Daytime Emmy.
Success no surprise
Former “Idol” judge Paula Abdul, who appeared on Clarkson’s show early in its run, said that it was evident from the beginning that she would stand out.
“She’s just one of those rare gems who’s so genuine and welcoming,” she said. “It makes everyone around her want to get comfortable and have a conversation. Not everyone can have that kind of an impact. It’s a gift to be able to connect to people authentically. Kelly’s got that gift, no question.”
At a time when asking anyone how they’re doing can feel like a loaded question, Clarkson says she feels “surprisingly great.” On top of dealing with the stresses of the pandemic — her son is back at school while her daughter is taking online classes — in June, Clarkson filed for divorce from her country music manager husband, Brandon Blackstock.
“I was like: ‘Look, at some point, people in the limelight are humans, too, and we’re all going through the same roller coaster as everyone else. So sometimes I don’t want to smile.’ I was honest about that. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s all relative to your own world.”
But her goal remains the same: “I’m trying to light up America’s life.”
And the people who work with her say she’s doing that. “I always, always say Kelly’s like the color yellow,” said showrunner Alex Duda, whose previous credits include “The Tyra Banks Show” and “Steve Harvey.” “If you spend time with her in a Zoom room or regular room, you leave there feeling better, and that’s what we want our viewers to remember. We want our viewers, when those credits are rolling, to feel better. I think everyone wants to feel better right now.”