Nikki McKibbin, a contestant on the first season of American Idol, died in the hospital on November 1, at 3 a.m. According to TMZ, the singer was hospitalized on life support following a brain aneurysm. Fellow American Idol contestant, Justin Guarini, posted the news of her death on Instagram, writing in part, “Rest well, ‘Gypsy’…and thank you for the laughter, merciless teasing, strength, vulnerability, love and friendship you showed me during our time together in the spotlight. #rip #americanidol.”
McKibbin appeared on the first season of American Idol in 2002, finishing third behind Guarini and eventual winner Kelly Clarkson. Her most memorable performance was when she covered “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles, and also sang Janis Joplin and Alanis Morissette, among other covers.
McKibbin was married to Craig Sadler and has a son, Tristen Langley, who also auditioned for American Idol in 2014 when he was just 15, TMZ reported.
McKibbin Appeared on ‘Popstars’ in 2001 Before Joining the First Season of ‘American Idol’
McKibbin, who was born in Grand Prairie, Texas, began her singing career on Popstars in 2001 before appearing on the first groundbreaking season of American Idol in 2002, Variety reported. She made an impression on judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, and even received flowers from Stevie Nicks, as Guarini recalled in his Instagram post:
I’ll never forget the day that her idol, Stevie Nicks, sent her flowers with a card that said “You are the Gypsy that I was…”. Nikki was on cloud nine and the joy and excitement that radiated from her was infectious. After the kind of emotional beating she took at the hands of the masses, she deserved to feel good about herself, even for a little while.
After appearing on Idol and coming in third, McKibbin signed with Sony Music’s RCA, Variety reported, but was in conflict with the label because she didn’t want to record a country album. Her debut album, “Unleashed,” came out in 2007.
After struggling with cocaine and alcohol addiction, she appeared in 2008 on the reality rehab show, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. In the first episode, she spoke about the abuse she experienced as a child, growing up with an alcoholic and drug-addicted father and suffering sexual and physical abuse from a family member.
Her lowest point, she told MTV in 2008, was when her mother had died of an overdose the previous year. She said she’d been doing cocaine and drinking with her mother, who died that night after overdosing on prescription drugs. “The worst time for me was when my mom died,” she said. “I didn’t have any control over myself at all, and I drank for nine months nonstop.”
McKibbin later appeared on Sober House and marked her third year sober on Celebrity Rehab‘s fifth season when she appeared for a special performance.
Many Took to Social Media to Remember the ‘American Idol’ Alum
Redeye Radio host Gary McNamara tweeted about McKibbin’s condition earlier on Saturday evening, writing: “I witnessed my friend Nikki (McKibbin) Sadler go from a Karaoke bar to finalist on 1st year of American Idol. She is on life support after suffering an aneurysm. They will end life support tonight. Please pray for her husband Craig and family. I am heartbroken.”
American Idol wrote on Twitter: “Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing. She was part of our American Idol family and will be truly missed. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
Fellow season 1 contestant Jim Verraros posted:
One fan wrote: “Her performance of Black Velvet has lived in my head rent free since season one of American Idol. I’ll always remember the really sweet moment with her son when he gave his mommy a rose after she sang. RIP Nikki McKibbin.”
One tweet reads: “RIP, Nikki McKibbin. You were one of the most colorful and interesting American Idol contestants. You were such a kind, genuine soul when I met you that year with @JimVerraros at the AIDS Walk.”