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'American Idol' alum Nikki McKibbin, who reached final 3 with Kelly Clarkson, dies at 42

Season one runner-up Justin Guarini broke the news Halloween night on his Instagram page.
Nikki McKibbin
Kelly Clarkson and Nikki McKibbin of "American Idol."Gregg DeGuire / WireImage
/ Source: Reuters

"American Idol" alum Nikki McKibbin, who reached the final three on the show's inaugural season in 2002, has died at the age of 42. Season one runner-up Justin Guarini broke the news Halloween night on his Instagram page.

The Grand Prairie, Texas, native famously finished third in the competition behind Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson in the reality show's storied first season on Fox. She had reached the finals after impressing judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson with performances of songs by Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, Bonnie Tyler, Janis Joplin and finally Alannah Myles with her rendition of "Black Velvet."

According to a tweet by Redeye Radio host Gary McNamara, McKibbon suffered an aneurysm and was on life support until last evening.

"I witnessed my friend Nikki (McKibbin) Sadler go from a Karaoke bar to finalist on 1st year of American Idol. She is on life support after suffering an aneurysm," he wrote on his Twitter page. "They will end life support tonight. Please pray for her husband Craig and family. I am heartbroken."

McKibbin attracted the attention of Stevie Nicks herself, who sent words of support to the then-23-year-old singer after watching her on the show. Guarini remembered that moment fondly in his tribute.

"@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."

Nikki McKibbin
Nikki McKibbin arrives at the "American Idol" season eight finale on May 20, 2009, in Los Angeles.Gregg DeGuire / FilmMagic

He continued: "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."

McKibbin began her reality show journey in 2001 competing on The WB competition "Popstars." After her turn on "Idol," she was signed to a deal through RCA and 19 Records, but locked horns over her refusal to record a country album. She finally put out a rock album, "Unleashed," in 2007.

Years after "Idol," she appeared on the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2008 seeking treatment for addiction to alcohol and cocaine. She subsequently appeared on the shows "Sober House," "Fear Factor," and Bravo's "Battle of the Network Reality Stars."

She briefly returned to "Idol" in 2014 when her then 15-year-old son, Tristan Langley, auditioned for the show in front of judges Harry Connick Jr., Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez. Langley had given his mom a rose on the "Idol" stage when he was just 4 years old.

Starting around 2016, McKibbin underwent a series of back surgeries.