If there’s anyone the current crop of American Idol contestants should look up to, it’s Kelly Clarkson. As Idol’s very first success story, she’s gone from a small-town Texas girl to becoming a multi-platinum selling artist and musical icon of the aughts. In homage to her 30th birthday, here are the Top 5 reasons we love to love Kelly:

5. She’s the very first American Idol winner. Without Idol, we literally would not be writing this piece. The show catapulted Kelly into a whole new stratosphere of fame. After spending a decade in the music biz and continuing to churn out hits, she’s proven that her talent is the real deal.

4. She’s also the most successful Idol contestant ever. As of this year, Kelly has sold more than 21 million albums worldwide, the most of any former contestant of the show. Her latest album, 2011’s Stronger, debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts and produced her best selling single to date (“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”).

3. She crosses musical boundaries. Kelly has found a kindred spirit in country singer Reba McEntire over past several the years. After signing to Starstruck Entertainment in 2007 (run by Reba’s husband, Narvel BLackstock), Kelly struck up a friendship with Reba that’s resulted in several collaborations and appearances on CMT and the Country Music Awards between the two. Kelly also recorded a duet with Jason Aldean called “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which was nominated for a 2012 Grammy and has become the most downloaded country music collaboration in history.

2. She stands her ground. A lot was riding on Kelly’s third record, 2007’s My December, due to the fact that she eschewed industry songwriters and wrote the entire album herself. When producer Clive Davis offered her $10 million dollars to drop 5 of her tunes in exchange for more radio-friendly fare, Kelly flat out refused! The same year, Kelly appeared on the Idol Gives Back charity show, which raised money for Hurricane Katrina and toward fighting poverty, hunger, and AIDS in Africa. Her label pressured her to perform a single off of My December, but Kelly refused, calling the move “beyond crass.” You tell ‘em, girl!

1. She’s an animal lover. Thank goodness she’s got that ranch in Texas, because where else would Kelly put the nearly 50 animals she’s rescued over the years? “We have 30 dogs, 14 horses,” she told NME Magazine. “We still only have three ponies and four minis, but we have goats now, two pigs we rescued called Miss Daisy and Boss Hog, I gave those to my brother.” A woman with a golden voice and a heart of gold? It’s almost too good to be true.

 

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