Who would have guessed that small town sweetheart Kelly Clarkson would eventually grow up and become one of America's brightest stars?

Certainly, not Kelly!

As a child growing up in Burleson, Texas, singing was far from her choice career.

Kelly wanted to become a marine biologist.

Lucky for the rest of the world, she quickly changed her mind upon seeing "Jaws," because it was only a matter of time before her true talent and passion were unveiled for the rest of the world to see.

Kelly's innate singing ability was first discovered in 7th grade after her junior high choral director heard her singing in the school hallway and encouraged her to sign up for the school choir. Up until that point, Kelly was considering joining the band!

Kelly immersed herself in choral activities throughout high school, starring in musicals ("Brigadoon"), performing overseas, and earning top honors as a member of the Texas All-State Choir.

Upon graduation, Kelly solidified her committment to music, working numerous jobs to finance her demo CD and market herself to record labels. Frustrated with the lack of results and unopened mail, she made her way to Los Angeles along with a friend, hoping for the best.

While in L.A., she found odd jobs to help make ends meet and wound up getting a role as an extra on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

After answering a newspaper ad, she coincidentally hooked up with famed songwriter Gerry Goffin (("You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman") through a mutual friend and began recording vocal demos of his songs. Little did Kelly know that the same song Goffin was famous for, would later provide her with a moment of clarity as she worked to achieve her dream.

Kelly's stay in Los Angeles was tragically cut short after Goffin grew ill, her apartment burned down, and her car got towed. Both emotionally and financially, Kelly was drained.

She turned home to recuperate and re-energize herself before heading back to L.A. Shortly thereafter, her best friend, Jessica, presented her with paperwork for American Idol, FOX Television's national talent search competition/television show.

Already jaded from an earlier stint on the WB's Popstars, Kelly was semi-reluctant, but signed the paperwork and went to the audition, hoping for the best.

Before you could say "You're going to Hollywood," Kelly was there.

After dozens of auditions, she found herself centerstage, among the top 30 contestants, and live on national television.

Belting out an energized rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," she captured the hearts (and votes) of people from all over the United States and advanced to the top 10 finals.

Week after week, Kelly quietly gained ground, rising above the competition, enduring a whirlwind promotional calendar, in addition to the responsibility of preparing live performances every week.

She was later provided with moment of clarity toward the middle of the competition.

When asked what the greatest thing to come out of the American Idol experience was, Kelly said, "the best moment for me was when I realized that I actually really wanted this. This is a public life now, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that part of it...The defining point was during my performance of "Natural Woman." I was on stage and the crowd was just going crazy, and I was like, I think I can do this."

It may have took Kelly a while to realize that she could handle it, but the American public showed no hesitation in casting their votes and naming Kelly Clarkson their American Idol on September 4, 2002.

Moments later, she took to the stage for an emotional performance of her first single, "A Moment Like This," capping off the competition and reminding millions of viewers why they tuned into the show week after week--to watch people's dreams come true: "Oh I can't believe it's happening to me/Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this."

On October 5th, 2002, "A Moment Like This," shot straight from No. 52 to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, eclipsing the 38-year record of "biggest leap to No. 1," previously held by the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," which went from No. 27 to No. 1 in 1964.

Her full-length solo debut is slated for March 4, 2003, and already, Kelly is attracting famed songwriters and producers like Diane Warren and the team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey). Kelly also has a desire to showcase her songwriting skills on her solo album as well.