Season 1 American Idol finalist Nikki McKibbin has passed away at the age of 42. Her husband, Craig Sadler, confirmed the news on Facebook, saying that the singer had suffered a brain aneurysm. “She would already be gone, but she’s an organ donor and has been kept on life support to make that possible,” Craig wrote in the statement.
McKibbin, who had previously been open about her struggles with substance abuse, had been sober for several years. “I did deal with addiction and that was hard, and I, unfortunately, made that a public thing with Dr. Drew. So then I had to explain to people that I was ok, that I was recovering, that I was fine,” she told People in 2019. “But now people always assume that I’m on something even when I’m not. I get it, though. I lied so much and was in such denial that how can you possibly believe me? I get it.”
Nikki came in third place on the inaugural season of American Idol in 2002, behind Justin Guarini & Kelly Clarkson. She released one album in 2007, and according to her Facebook profile, had been working as an in-home vocal coach.
Guarini paid tribute to his friend on Instagram, saying, “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.
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@realnikkimckibbin was a fiery, funny lady who could sing the Hell out of a rock song with the same kind of ease and command she lovingly used to cut you with her twangy Southern wit. Even in our 20’s when we were on American Idol together I could tell that she’d had a challenging life, and that not that many people had been kind to her along the way... ...but 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. 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
Nikki’s rendition of “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles became one of mer most iconic performances on Idol.
Nikki’s son, Tristan, followed in his mom’s footsteps and audition for season 13 of American Idol.