Kelly Clarkson has been outspoken about the pressures that the music industry can place on young singers in the past, and in a new interview with British magazine Attitude, she recounts her own experience with body image expectations.
“When I was really skinny, I wanted to kill myself,” she told the publication. “I was miserable, like inside and out, for four years of my life. But no one cared, because aesthetically you make sense.”
Clarkson was just 20 when she won the inaugural season of American Idol in 2002 and found herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight with platinum albums and huge hits like “Since U Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes.” As a result, she remembers, she was pressured to lose weight so she could be as “skinny” as her fellow pop stars (her peers at the time included Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and others).
“I thought the only way out was quitting,” she said of working with Clive Davis’ RCA Records, calling it a “very dark time” in her career. “I, like, wrecked my knees and my feet, because all I would do is put in headphones and run. I was at the gym all the time.”
The singer famously clashed with Davis over the songs she wanted to feature on her third album, 2007’s My December. In Variety, she recalled how Davis made her cry after calling her song “Because of You” “shitty.”
“I was told that was a shitty song because it didn’t rhyme,” she told Variety earlier this month. “A group of men thought it was OK to sit around a young woman and bully her. I was told I should shut up and sing.”
It took Clarkson a while to wake up to the reality that she needed to reclaim control over her body – but when she did, there was no turning back.
“There’s a song on My December called ‘Sober,'” she said. “There’s this line – ‘picked the weeds but kept the flowers’ – and I just live my life by that, because you are who you surround yourself with. I was around some really negative people, and I got out of it because I had a lot of great people there, too. It was a case of turning around, facing them and walking toward the light.” (The singer has also become outspoken in interviews and via social media, addressing body shamers directly.)
Clarkson – still one of the most successful, enduring Idol winners ever alongside Carrie Underwood – signed with a new record company, Atlantic Records, last spring, and will release a new album, Meaning of Life, on October 27th. This spring, she’ll also join The Voice as a celebrity mentor.