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Nikki McKibbin (1978–2020), “American Idol” season one finalist

by Linnea Crowther

Nikki McKibbin was a finalist in the 2002 debut season of “American Idol,” placing third after Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini.

Idol and after

McKibbin was one of the standout contestants in the popular first season of the singing competition reality show, focusing on her preferred style of rock ‘n’ roll. Her songs included “I Will Survive,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and “Edge of Seventeen.” After coming in third, she received a record deal, but when she was urged to record a country album, she backed out. She later released her debut album, “Unleashed,” in 2007. McKibbin also appeared in reality shows including “Fear Factor,” “Battle of the Network Reality Stars,” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” successfully pursuing treatment for her cocaine and alcohol addiction. In 2014, McKibbin’s son competed in the 13th season of “American Idol.”

McKibbin on her sobriety journey

“I’ve battled substance abuse and I’m winning, but it’s still a struggle every day,” she said. “For a long time, I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t being the person I should be. I’m in a better place now.” —from a 2019 interview with People


Tributes to Nikki McKibbin

Full obituary: The New York Times

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