Kelly Clarkson is decked out in black: skintight pants, jeweled stilleto-heeled boots and a blouse that plunges dangerously low. Camera-wielding fans buzz about as the singer sweeps past a velvet rope and disappears into a happening nightclub.
“OK, let's do that again,” a photographer says. Clarkson and the camera-wielders back up and resume their spots.
It's midday, midweek and Clarkson isn't out clubbing. She's posing for photos to promote her new partnership with a brand of vitamin-enhanced water. The daylong shoot is wedged between cutting demos for her new record and preparing for her national summer tour, which begins June 30 in West Palm Beach, Fla.
When Clarkson does get free time, she's not one to hit the clubs, she says.
“I'm like 80 in my mind,” says the spunky 24-year-old, who talks like an auctioneer on caffeine. “My downtime is literally downtime.”
It's been a whirlwind four years for the pop star, who became instantly famous in 2002 when she won the first “American Idol” title.
Clarkson's debut album, “Thankful,” earned double-platinum status, and her multiplatinum follow-up, “Breakaway,” netted two Grammy awards earlier this year. She's now at work on her third album, due in early 2007.
The album in progress, she says, is a departure from her last two records, with more soulful smoothness and a rock 'n' roll edge.
“It's like a throwback to Janis Joplin, Sly, some of (the new songs) are a little Prince-ish,” Clarkson says. "It's still got the whole rock-pop vibe, but it's kind of got certain songs, too, that have an extreme amount of soul in them as well."
Prepare to be flooredThe actual assembly of the album will have to wait, though. Clarkson is about to embark on her “Addicted” summer tour, and she promises it will be like nothing she's ever done before. Expect “huge surprises,” she says.
“People are going to be floored,” she says, declining to reveal any details. “It's a more musical show, like I always do, but the things we're bringing in, like all the video stuff and different things, are major ones.”
Clarkson plans to perform tracks from her forthcoming record, where she "explores a more straight-ahead rock side," says her manager, Jeff Rabhan.
“This is an opportunity to test out some material and see what really works and feels right,” he says. “This definitely is going to be the biggest show she's ever done, in terms of audience and production and Kelly's going to do what she does best, which is knock the vocals out of the park.”
Promoting healthy choicesBefore the tour starts, however, Clarkson has other obligations to tend to — like this day's photo shoot. She joined forces with Glaceau's vitaminwater to promote her favorite flavor (“Focus, the pink one.”) and encourage young people to make healthier choices.
Clarkson is also involved with the company's “vitaminschool” program, where high-school students prepare healthy meals for a chance to win a $100,000 scholarship. Clarkson is one of four judges who will help choose the winner in New York on June 8.
With her success, she says, she feels she wants to also focus on work that helps others.
“I've done well enough to where I'm fine for the rest of my life,” Clarkson says. “So my whole goal now is I just want to be part of things that are positive and make a difference.”
Besides vitaminwater, Clarkson works with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She'll donate a portion of her “Addicted” ticket sales to Komen's Race for the Cure initiative.
Adjusting to overnight fame has been “pretty hard core,” Clarkson says. “Normal” outings, like going to the grocery store, are a thing of the past. Even a wig and glasses don't help.
“People notice everything. They notice my chin,” she says. “Three hundred sixty-three days out of the year, I'm fine, I love it. It's hard but at the same time it's a blessing.”
Clarkson says she relies on her Christian beliefs to keep her grounded.
“My central foundation is my faith,” she says. “That's just how I keep it, like, sane.”
She's also learned to set some limits and take time off. But not enough time to date, she says. Clarkson is single and says she'll probably stay that way for a while.
“I give up. Is that bad?” she says. “It's just too hard. It sounds so cliche to say ‘I'm too busy,’ but I really am.”
Not that she's complaining. Before “American Idol,” when she was working as a cocktail waitress, Clarkson dreamed of being busy with a music career.
She left some wondering about her feelings for the show when she didn't mention “Idol” while accepting her Grammy awards in February. Clarkson says she has only fond thoughts about the program.
“People have the wrong idea, like I don't want to talk about it,” she says. “I think it's a great thing. It was obviously the best way for me to come into the business and it's just a great opportunity for everyday normal people. It's like a Cinderella story every day.”
And with that, the photographer beckons Clarkson. A stylist carefully smooths the pop star's hair as she walks off, back to the “nightclub” and the flash bulbs.