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Lack of other career opportunities and a fire incident in her apartment forced Clarkson to return to Burleson, where she worked at a movie theater, promoted Red Bull energy drinks, and worked as a telemarketer and as a cocktail waitress in a comedy club.Upon returning to Burleson, Clarkson was encouraged by her friends to audition for the inaugural season of the reality television series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in May 2002. I definitely looked like a cocktail waitress." Clarkson went on to win the competition on September 4, 2002, at the Kodak Theatre (now Dolby), earning 58% of the votes against runner-up Justin Guarini.
She appeared as an extra in a few television series such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Dharma & Greg and briefly worked with musician Gerry Goffin to record five demo tracks in trying to secure a record deal.Despite receiving a "golden ticket," a pass to the Hollywood rounds, in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. They did one season of Pop Idol in the UK but America is a very different market. Immediately after winning American Idol, Clarkson was signed to a record deal with RCA Records, 19 Recordings, and S Records by talent manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol; and music mogul Clive Davis, who was slated to executive-produce her debut album.In an interview in 2012, Clarkson referred the inaugural season as "ghetto", explaining: "On our season we were like kids in camp. They dropped us off in a mall and said 'find some clothes to wear on national television'. On September 17, 2002, her debut double-A-side single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This", was released.Trying to reinvent her image, Clarkson decided to part ways with Idol management and shifted to pop rock music for her second album, Breakaway (2004).After numerous top 40 radio number-one singles, such as "Since U Been Gone" and "Because of You", the album sold over 15 million copies worldwide and earned Clarkson two Grammy Awards.
Her fifth studio album, Stronger (2011), made Clarkson the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album twice.