By: Chris Azzopardi / photos by RCA Records
Before catapulting to pop stardom, Kelly Clarkson was one of us. In many ways, she still is. The original American Idol, who memorably erupted into waterworks when she won the first season of the reality show in 2002, wasn’t always able to muster the willpower she’s instilled in the gay community through her uncompromising persona and liberating pop anthems, including those on her latest album, Piece by Piece.
That’s just the charm of Clarkson, who opens up in our new interview about overcoming teen inferiorities, diehard lesbian fans who call themselves “Kezbos,” driving Bette Midler to “suicide,” and that night she sipped some wine, felt “sad” for our generation and wrote a powerful song about it.

Kelly, take my hand. I wanna go back with you.
The imagery!
Tell me the moment in your career you first knew gay people worshipped at your altar.
(Laughs) Oh my god, that’s amazing! It was the Breakaway World Tour (in 2005), the first tour for the Breakaway record, and it was so awesome. One girl on tour came up and just introduced herself and was like, “I’m a Kezbo,” and I was like, “What?!” She was like, “A Kezbo, your lesbian fans.” And I was like, “Wait—there’s enough of you to have a group? That’s amazing! Awesome! Go me!” She was like, “Yeah, we just love you. We’re gonna bring you to the other side.” I was like, “All right, well, keep trying!” Then, on the same tour, I had this guy and he was so funny! Because, you know I’m a huge fan of Bette Midler and have been since I saw For the Boys when I was a kid and he’s like, “You’re our new Bette!” (Laughs) I was like, “You need to aim higher. Bette Midler just shot herself! I’m not that cool, but I will work on gaining the respect of that compliment.”
Is it hard to fathom yourself a gay icon?
I guess it’s hard to fathom you can be an icon in general. I don’t consider myself an icon at all, but no, I have a lot of gay and lesbian friends and they like my stuff, so I guess it’s not so hard for me to think (the gay community) might like my music. But I don’t know—I’m not an icon. I’ve only been doing this for 13 years. You’ve gotta be doing it for a good 20 to gain that status.
When it comes to your strong bond with the gay community, how do you explain that connection?
I have a connection, but I don’t look at it differently. I don’t ever look at a fan as a gay fan or a lesbian fan or a straight fan, I don’t ever look at that. Fans are fans, and no matter what our lives are like, no matter what path we’re on, music is the one thing that connects us. I mean, I had so much fun at this club recently. It’s called G-A-Y, this club in London, and everybody knew all the words to every song. Even the new one! And they were gay and straight and lesbian, everybody was there. It didn’t matter. It was just really cool. It was a cool event, and it was fun. It’s what I love about music, that it doesn’t matter. That’s what connects us...

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I grew up in a very accepting household.
I was taught to accept everybody how they
are, and I admire my mom for that. She’s
never taught me hate."

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