Nikki McKibbin, who finished third on the inaugural season of the reality talent show in 2002, died on Sunday after a brain aneurysm, her husband said.
Ryan Seacrest, the longtime “American Idol” host, wrote on Twitter that Ms. McKibbin “was a superstar the moment she walked into auditions.”
“She set the bar high with her talent and memorable stage presence,” he said. “It was an honor to watch her grow and inspire millions of people.”
“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 on his Instagram on Oct. 31.
The Grand Prairie, Texas native famously finished third in the competition behind Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson on 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 a brain aneurysm and was on life support until the late hours of Oct. 30.
During Ms. McKibbin’s time on “American Idol,” her son Tristen, who was 4, handed her a rose after a performance. In 2014, Ms. McKibbin accompanied her son, then 15, when he auditioned for the show. As he sang a cover of Sublime’s “Santeria,” she mouthed the words.
“We just want the world to know, out of all of the wonderful things she was, the most important thing to us is that she was an extraordinary wife, the most amazing mother a son could ever ask for, and an angel of a grandmother,” Mr. Langley said on Sunday.
After “American Idol,” Ms. McKibbin signed a record deal with RCA Records, a division of Sony Music, but clashed with the label when she refused to record a country album, Variety reported. Her debut album, “Unleashed,” was released in 2007 by the Chenoa Music label.
Ms McKibbin’s struggles with substance abuse, including alcohol and cocaine, were chronicled on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” and “Sober House,” both on VH1, Variety reported. She also appeared on “Fear Factor” on NBC, and “Battle of the Network Reality Stars” on Bravo.
In addition to her husband and son, Ms. McKibbin is survived by her grandmother, Hazel Bunyea; her father, Keith McKibbin; a daughter, Carlie Sadler; and a granddaughter, Letti Sadler.
Mr Sadler said on Facebook that his wife was taken off life support in the early hours on Sunday and her organs were donated. Before the operation began, he said, they played “Landslide,” one of Ms Nicks’s signature songs with Fleetwood Mac, one last time.