Kelly Clarkson opens up about the origins of her success, her musical influences and more on a new installment of comedian Kevin Hart's talk show, Hart to Heart, which airs on NBC's Peacock. Of course, it's impossible for Clarkson to talk about her musical beginnings without mentioning American Idol.

In September 2002, she was the show's very first winner, and although her experience on the show would go on to launch a massive pop career, the singer says that her perspective on the show was much different than the ones today's contestants experience. At the time, Idol was simply an amateur singing show based on a British televised singing competition called Pop Idol. No one could have predicted that the American version would become the phenomenon it is today — Clarkson and her fellow contestants included.

"We all thought it was kind of a joke. I mean, we didn't think it was gonna come of anything," she confesses. "We were the first season of American Idol, so we were there for that paycheck that [SAG-AFTRA, also known as the Screen Actors Guild, a labor union for performers and others in the entertainment industry] gives you, to pay for some bills. Nobody knew that anything would actually come to fruition."

Clarkson and the rest of her fellow singers had no concept of just how much fame the show would eventually attract, and ultimately, she says she's grateful for that.

"We got thrown into it. I will say, I am thankful for that, at the same time," she continues.

While winning undoubtedly launched her career, Clarkson says, the title of American Idol champ didn't come along with quite the same set of expectations or associations that it might for a winner today.

"I think I skipped the surreal part. Like ... it really doesn't matter to me, in the best sense. It matters, but it matters for the worth that I give it," she reflects. "I love singing, and I love, you know, what [I'm] able to do with [my] spotlight, but because I skipped all that so fast and I was thrown in, there was no time for people to really drill me on, 'You have to do this, you have to be this.'"

Now, nearly two decades later, Clarkson is helping mentor the next group of talented vocalists to break into the music industry as a coach on The Voice, which launches its 21st season in September.

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