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She appeared as an extra in a few television series such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Dharma & Greg and briefly worked with musician Gerry Goffin to record five demo tracks in trying to secure a record deal.
Lack of other career opportunities and a fire incident in her apartment forced Clarkson to return to Burleson, where she worked at a movie theater, promoted Red Bull energy drinks, and worked as a telemarketer and as a cocktail waitress in a comedy club.
After debuting at number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the single climbed to number 52 the following week, and subsequently ascended to number one.
It broke a 38-year-old record set by the British band The Beatles for the biggest leap to number one.
In an interview in 2012, Clarkson referred the inaugural season as "ghetto", explaining: "On our season we were like kids in camp. They dropped us off in a mall and said 'find some clothes to wear on national television'. On September 17, 2002, her debut double-A-side single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This", was released.
Both songs were performed by Clarkson during the season finale of American Idol.
Trying to reinvent her image, Clarkson decided to part ways with American Idol management and developed a more pop rock sound for her second album, Breakaway (2004).
It sold over 12 million copies worldwide and earned Clarkson two Grammy Awards.
In 2001, she traveled to Los Angeles, trying to pursue a career in music.
She sang at her high school talent show, after which an audience member shared some inspiring words with her: "God has given you this gift. You're destined to sing." Clarkson continued singing and soon started classical training, hoping that music would be her ticket to a college scholarship.
Upon graduating from high school, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, and Berklee College of Music, but later declined them, explaining: "I've already written so much music and wanted to try a career on my own" adding, "you're never too old to go to college." After graduation, Clarkson worked several jobs to finance a demo, recording material and trying to market it to record labels, but received little response.
Upon returning to Burleson, Clarkson was encouraged by her friends to audition for the inaugural season of the reality television series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in May 2002. I definitely looked like a cocktail waitress." Clarkson went on to win the competition on September 4, 2002 at the then Kodak Theatre (now Dolby), earning 58% of the votes against runner-up Justin Guarini and without being sent into the bottom three throughout the season.
Despite receiving a "golden ticket," a pass to the Hollywood rounds, in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. They did one season of Pop Idol in the UK but America is a very different market. Immediately after winning American Idol, Clarkson was signed to a record deal with RCA Records, 19 Recordings, and S Records by talent manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol; and music mogul Clive Davis, who was slated to executive-produce her debut album.