The three original “Amercian Idol” judges — Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson — reunited to help honor Kelly Clarkson, who rocketed to fame after winning the first season of “Idol” in 2002, as she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But Cowell and Abdul couldn’t help but bring a bit of drama to the day, just as they did behind the judges’ table two decades ago. Here’s what went down as the pair nearly upstaged the honoree…
Cowell and Abdul Traded Jabs During Walk of Fame Ceremony
During a ceremony on September 19, 2022, on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Clarkson received the 2,733rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Press materials had touted that her longtime music director, Jason Halbert, and original “Idol” judge Simon Cowell would speak at the event. But the additions of Jackson and Abdul were a surprise, especially since Abdul wasn’t in the crowd at the start of the ceremony.
Apparently, Abdul slipped in just as Cowell was speaking about how awful the first day of auditions went when “Idol” was first launched.
“I actually thought I was being punked. On the first day, Paula resigned,” he told the crowd. Clarkson looked shocked and asked if that was true.
“Yeah,” he continued. “Every singer was out of tune and I thought, ‘this is a joke.’ And it got worse progressively. So I thought, ‘this is an absolute disaster, why did I come here?’ And thank God, I remember the day we met you. And I remember not just your voice, but your personality.”
As Cowell continued his story, he suddenly noticed Abdul had arrived.
“Oh, Paula! You’re late,” he laughed. “Nothing’s changed! This is brilliant. I was just talking about you, when you quit.”
The live stream camera panned to Abdul, who blew kisses to Clarkson but then stared at Cowell and said, “Oh, I heard. I heard.”
“Okay. I didn’t know you were in the audience,” Cowell replied, as the crowd laughed. He then shared an anecdote about how, during “Idol,” Clarkson hadn’t wanted to talk with him backstage or in the hallways outside of the show.
Clarkson stepped in to explain, saying, “I didn’t want you to get in my head, man! You mess with all those people. You mess with me? I was like, no bro. You get out of my head!”
After Cowell’s speech, Lupita Sanchez Cornejo, Chairman of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and emcee for the event, wanted to formally acknowledge Abdul, since she hadn’t been in the audience during earlier introductions.
“I’d like to take a moment to welcome Walk of Famer Paula Abdul,” she said, and then began to talk about the next part of the ceremony. But to Sanchez Cornejo’s surprise, Abdul popped up from her seat and onto the stage to give her own speech, saying that she changed her flight to attend.
“I’m so proud to be here,” she told Clarkson. “I changed my flight just so I can be here. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Kelly. Not only the trajectory of your life has changed, but you have changed the trajectory of everyone’s lives.”
“And your talent, your tenacity, your grace, your dignity made season 1 all worth it, of me having to sit next to a British guy, to the left of me,” she said, referring to Cowell with a wince. “And a wonderful man to the right of me.”
Abdul then said she was the one who would make sure to talk to Clarkson backstage on “Idol,” cornering her in the elevators to ask about her singing and training.
“He made me nervous, not you,” Clarkson laughed. “You made me feel comfortable. But I was like ‘he’s gonna hate what I do.'”
Abdul then quipped, “It doesn’t take much.” The crowd responded with a surprised gasp and then nervous laughter.
Though it’s not clear when, cameras caught Abdul back at her seat, jokingly crossing her fingers in an X at Cowell, as if warding off evil, while Jackson tried to get between the two — as he often did during “Idol.”
When it was time for Clarkson to speak, she said, “I just want to make a correction first. I love Simon. I was just scared of him as a judge. I loved him and I love the honesty, I do. I appreciate that.”
Later in the day, Abdul posted an Instagram video of herself at the event, wrote about how proud she is of Clarkson and that “it’s always a pleasure to be reunited with @randyjackson & @simoncowell too.”
Clarkson Brought Her Family to Ceremony, Including Her Kids
Clarkson kept her remarks fairly short, saying that her kids were probably getting impatient. She shares daughter River Rose, 8, and son Remington Alexander, 6, with ex-husband Brandon Blackstock. She also had her older stepkids along, as well as her mom and sister.
At one point, as Clarkson was thanking her team, her kids started making funny noises and she made one right back.
“Uh, that’s my kiddos, they’re getting hungry,” she said. “They’re like, ‘great, you got a star, let’s go to Mickey D’s.'”
Earlier in the ceremony, in an emotional speech by Jason Herbert, Clarkson’s music director of 20 years, he made a point to thank her kids.
“River and Remi, thank you guys so much for sharing your mom,” he said. “You don’t know now how cool she is, but you’re gonna look back at this one day. She’s not normal. She’s incredible.”