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22 Years of Kelly Clarkson

It’s not that I didn’t think Kelly Clarkson would be an incredible performer. She is the OG American Idol, so there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be in for a treat this Mother’s Day weekend. What I didn’t know was how moved I’d be by a woman who seems to have suddenly grown up, too.

It seems like yesterday, I was watching the first season of American Idol and using my touchtone phone to vote for my favorite singer. I wish I could tell you if I voted for Kelly or not, but there’s so much I forget about that time. I was fourteen years old, about to enter high school, and then I blinked.

Now, I’m a thirty-six-year-old mom of two with a daughter heading into high school.

They did say time wouldn’t wait. 

I can’t say I ever watched another episode of American Idol after that, but it was almost as if, from that point forward, Kelly Clarkson had become a name so engrained in American Culture that I never really stopped to think twice about what she was up to. She just existed as a primary source of music in the world to me. She doesn’t sing the genres of music I typically listen to, except for at conferences and big events when they play “Stronger,” and I’m overcome by the resilience of my generation as I sing the chorus. Though, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many of her songs live in my mind’s jukebox. 

When my friend Whitney offered me tickets courtesy of Townsquare Media, I jumped at the opportunity to do something different this Mother’s Day weekend. I grabbed my girlfriend, another supermom of three, and headed to Hard Rock AC for an unexpectedly incredible night. 

My friend mentioned that Kelly had gone through a bad divorce and asked if I knew anything about it. Another friend asked if I thought I’d write something about her recent weight loss since I have a history of weight loss, too. Another asked if I knew if she took Ozempic to lose her weight. 

I had no idea about any of this, as I don’t typically pay attention to celebrity gossip and don’t watch the news like I once did. (My peace is everything to me.) I was just going to the concert for a fun night out in Atlantic City. 

To my surprise, Kelly moved me. 

I saw the woman in her, and it was like I was reintroduced to a long-lost cousin who had gone on to become a global superstar in the last 22 years.  I witnessed a powerful mother of two who has obviously faced so much in her life and done so in the public eye while showing up with love, grace, and excellence. 

She spoke with a level of authenticity and love that I thought we had almost lost in this world. She was childlike and professional, playful and kind, lighthearted and refreshing in so many ways. She even mentioned that she hadn’t had a lick of alcohol; this was just her being “her," which I appreciated so much as I explore a sober-ish life of my own.

As someone who values authenticity and vulnerability more than a little bit, I was refreshed by the energy she brought to the stage. She spoke about how she was thankful not to be in the headspace anymore, like when she wrote certain songs, and of her personal evolution. As she engaged her fans of all ages, I was humbled by her magnitude. I was 14, and yet 22 years later, here I was, crying with my friend at the depth of the music she was singing and amazed at the power of a woman who has overcome time and time again with a smile on her face. I sat in the same room with children who weren't even born yet singing every lyric, other 30-somethings like myself probably having similar experiences, and women far older than me who likely have different memories of the Kelly of 2002. That's legacy.

I believe we are part of a generation of women who are healing by leaps and bounds, and it was an honor to sit in that audience and see someone I feel like I’ve known my whole life show me what longevity and grace can look like. I still don't know the details of her personal life or weight loss but what I can say is that she looked happy. She seemed at peace and full of life. She was a refreshing dose of humanity when I least expected it.

She sang many of her classic songs, including " Since You Been Gone,” “Breakaway,” and “Because of You,” as well as several songs she mentioned her super-fans would know. 

With every passing song, I found myself whispering to my friend repeatedly, “Wow! Good for her!”  “Good for Kelly Clarkson.” 

Congratulations on a magnificent 20+ year career, Kelly. I salute you. 

Thank you Townsquare Media for the tickets!

Follow me on social media at KrystleJBailey for more content and multi-city adventures.

Join me on Season 2 of The Coolest People in the World podcast this week where I will be sharing more of my personal experience at this concert and diving into the healing, mental health, art, and more.

Visit to see everything I have going on in the community and online.

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