Nikki McKibbin, who reached the final three on the first season of American Idol, has died at age 42. Her fellow contestant and Season One runner-up Justin Guarini reported the news on Instagram. Her death was attributed to complications from an aneurysm.
McKibbin and Guarini lost to Kelly Clarkson in the first season. Her rendition of Alannah Myles’s song Black Velvet was her most memorable moment. She also performed songs by Alanis Morissette, Bonnie Tyler, Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge.
A native of Grand Prairie, Texas, McKibbin was remembered fondly by Guarini in his Instagram post.
“@realnikkimckibbin was a fiery, funny lady who could sing the Hell out of a rock song with the same kind of ease and command she lovingly used to cut you with her twangy Southern wit,” he wrote. “Even in our ’20s when we were on American Idol together, I could tell that she’d had a challenging life, and not that many people had been kind to her along the way.
“But I’ll never forget the day that her idol, Stevie Nicks, sent her flowers with a card that said ‘You are the Gypsy that I was…” Nikki was on cloud nine and the joy and excitement that radiated from her was infectious. After the kind of emotional beating she took at the hands of the masses, she deserved to feel good about herself, even for a little while. Rest well “Gypsy…and thank you for the laughter, merciless teasing, strength, vulnerability, love and friendship you showed me during our time together in the spotlight. #rip #americanidol.”
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McKibbin was signed to RCA’s 19 Records after he Idol stint. But it took until 2007 before she could put out an album, Unleashed.
Earlier she competed on the WB competition Popstars, and then, years after her American Idol appearance, she appeared on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, claiming alcohol and cocaine addictions. That led to stints on the shows Sober House, Fear Factor, and Bravo’s Battle of the Network Reality Stars.
McKibbin made a brief appearance in 2014 when her 15-year-old son, Tristan Langley, auditioned.
Survivors include the son and her husband, Craig. No memorial plans have been revealed.
Following the news of McKibbin’sr death, Idol host Ryan Seacrest took to Twitter to pay tribute.
Nikki was a superstar the moment she walked into auditions – she set the bar high with her talent and memorable stage presence. It was an honor to watch her grow and inspire millions of people. Our hearts go out to her family, friends, and fans who are grieving this tragic loss. https://t.co/iuoyqKa1pY
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) November 1, 2020
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