LOS ANGELES — For Kelly Clarkson, her Walk of Fame ceremony was a homecoming.
Twenty years ago this month, Clarkson wowed Hollywood as the inaugural winner of “American Idol” in 2002. On Monday, she returned to the famed Los Angeles boulevard to celebrate not only herself but also the team that launched her stardom.
“I think [it’s] important to have not just ‘yes’ people around you but people that actually love you and care about you and give their honest advice. I’ve always welcomed that, and I think that is why I’m here today,” Clarkson, 40, said upon receiving the Walk of Fame’s 2,733rd star.
“Not just because of myself, but because of having constantly teams of people that love you and support you and really want to make your dreams come true while making their dreams come true.”
Clarkson, in a black velvet gown, delivered her acceptance speech amid cheering outbursts from excited fans who watched from the Ovation Hollywood mall — including through the window of a nearby Walgreens and the upper-level balconies next to Dave & Buster’s.
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lupita Sanchez Cornejo declared “Kelly Clarkson Day” in Hollywood as key figures in the singer’s career came to celebrate.
Longtime collaborator and producer Jason Halbert was on hand, as were original “American Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, who crowned Clarkson the first “Idol” champion two decades ago. (Abdul said she rescheduled her flight to catch the “Stronger” singer’s ceremony.)
The ceremony, held at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. in front of Ovation Hollywood, also featured speeches from Halbert, Cowell and Abdul.
Halbert remembered meeting Clarkson after she won the “American Idol” crown.
“Her voice was a gift she was born with, and I believe it’s unmatched by anyone alive,” Halbert said. “But it’s her authenticity and her heart that has captured the soul of America and the world these past 20 years.
“She’s used her voice to give a vocabulary to us who have suffered heartache, pain and suffering. She’s given us anthems to celebrate love and songs to mark the milestones in our lives.”
Similarly, Cowell remembered thinking that Clarkson was going to win the singing competition, then airing on Fox, after hearing her perform Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” He also recalled how Clarkson asked that they didn’t speak to each other until the end of the competition. She clarified that she wanted to be “respectful” of the competitive environment.
“I remember that moment when your name was called, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Thanks to you, we may have another season,’” he quipped to Clarkson. “I can honestly say, ‘Thanks to you, I’m here today.’”
“The Kelly you see in front of the camera is the Kelly you see behind the camera,” Cowell added. “She is one of the nicest, most loyal, most talented people I’ve had the great, great fortune to have [met].”
Abdul also sang Clarkson’s praises.
“Your talent, your tenacity, your grace, your dignity made Season 1 all worth it of me having to sit next to a British guy to the left of me, and a wonderful man to the right of me,” she joked about her fellow judges.
The “Straight Up” singer told Clarkson that she’s “living proof” of the impact of “American Idol,” a show that “changed the world.”
“Thank you for changing the trajectory of my life and making me believe — like a kid believes in Santa Claus — that young, talented people can make it, and that they can make it big time,” Abdul said.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Clarkson has scored a number of hits, including “A Moment Like This,” “Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” while racking up three Grammy Awards out of 15 nominations.
Beyond music, Clarkson has served as a judge and mentor on ABC’s “Duets” and NBC’s “The Voice.” And in 2019, she launched her own daytime talk show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” which has received numerous Daytime Emmy awards.
After the speeches came Clarkson’s photo shoot with her newly minted Hollywood star — and some unexpected singing from her fans. While the singer posed with her children and various teams, a portion of the crowd broke out into her “Since U Been Gone” and “A Moment Like This” to catch her attention.
Joey Prather was one of the attendees who lent his voice to the impromptu chorus. Visiting from Hawaii, Prather wasn’t expecting to attend the ceremony. He said he was walking around the area when he stumbled upon the crowd and saw Clarkson, Cowell and others. The Walk of Fame celebrity sightings weren’t a stroke of luck for Prather. Instead, he said, “Things happen for a reason.”
“You get all the community to come together … it’s something special,” he said. “It’s something I can look back on later on.”
Unlike Prather, James Bany planned to attend Clarkson’s ceremony when he learned of the event through the Walk of Fame’s Instagram account. Bany, who made the trek from Riverside, came dressed for the occasion.
He wore a T-shirt from Clarkson’s 2019 The Meaning of Life tour, which he said was the most recent concert he’s experienced since the pandemic began.
Bany, who discovered Clarkson through “American Idol,” said her music has gotten him through several break-ups, and he thinks her legacy is “just getting started.”
“She’s in it for the long haul,” he said. “She’s incredible.”