McKibbin died due to an aneurysm and was on life support.
American Idol alum Nikki McKibbin, one of the final three on the first season of the show, in 2002, has died at the age of 42. The heartbreaking news was shared on Instagram by season one runner-up Justin Guarini on Halloween night. McKibbin, a Grand Prairie, Texas native, finished third behind Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson. Guarini shared on Instagram: @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...
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.— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) November 1, 2020
He added:...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. Redeye Radio host Gary McNamara tweeted that McKibbin died due to an aneurysm and was on life support until last evening.
Nikki McKibbin was a strong & spirited woman who always stayed true to who she was. She could bring the house down with her powerful voice and captivating stage presence. Our first season of Idol would not have been what it was without her. My love & prayers go out to her family.— Paula Abdul (@PaulaAbdul) November 1, 2020
"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," he wrote. "They will end life support tonight. Please pray for her husband Craig and family. I am heartbroken." McKibbin's husband Craig Sadler also posted an emotional goodbye to his wife on Facebook. He revealed that she was an organ donor, saying that she was "still giving" till the end. Sharing that the hospital would play Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" before beginning the donation process, Sadler appealed to her fans to "pause at 3:00 wherever you are and listen to it with her," since there would be no public funeral service owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
Many of you already know something is wrong. The love of my life Nikki Sadler suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday. She...Posted by Craig Sadler on Saturday, October 31, 2020
McKibbin began her journey on reality TV in 2001, when she competed in the WB competition Popstars. After her stint on American Idol, she signed on a deal with RCA and 19 Records but there seemed to be a small tiff between both parties over a country album. Finally, in 2007, McKibbin released her rock album, Unleashed.
RIP Nikki McKibbin.— Brian Dunkleman (@briandunkleman) November 1, 2020
You’re a beautiful soul.
A year later, she made her appearance on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008, where she talked about seeking treatment for addiction to alcohol and cocaine. She also appeared on shows like Sober House, Fear Factor, and Bravo's Battle of the Network Reality Stars. In 2019, she opened up about her struggles and her issue with substance abuse. "I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career, but also in life in general,” McKibbin told PEOPLE at a charity event in August 2019. "I’ve battled substance abuse and I’m winning, but it’s still a struggle every day. For a long time, I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t being the person I should be. I’m in a better place now.”
Nikki McKibbin, who placed third on the first season of “American Idol” in 2002, died at the age of 42 on Nov. 1, following an aneurysm.— Anthony DeLapp (@delapp_anthony) November 2, 2020
McKibbin had no idea “how big it was going to be" when she first started her journey in 2002. “Then the show blew up and became a big thing and before I knew it, I was on magazine covers and being recognized everywhere I went,” she said. “It was a good thing, but obviously my career never became what Kelly [Clarkson]’s was. Which is okay, but I was hoping that the exposure would be more for me.” She then went on to clarify this misconception that people seemed to have about American Idol. “People automatically assumed that I was some millionaire because I was in the show, and nothing could be further from the truth,” the singers said.
RIP Nikki McKibbin. I was a big fan of American Idol in those early years, and, yes, I did end up voting for Nikki, as she was treated so horribly by Simon and the show, in the way typical of toxic reality TV of that era. She was a charismatic, unique voice who deserved better.— Soaps and Sci-Fi (@SoapsandSciFi) November 1, 2020
“A couple of years later, I was still struggling financially, but people expect that you’re living this glamorous life and I’m like, “I’m just trying to pay my electric bill!' ” She then addressed her substance abuse, saying, “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 said. “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.”
We are so saddened to hear that one of our favorite Celebrity Scoopers has passed away far too soon. Those that met and loved @nikkimckibbin knew her best for American Idol as their original rock star. This star will shine forever in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/eRj10nPpp5— DFW Ben & Jerry's (@DFWBenandJerrys) November 1, 2020
But, despite her struggles, McKibbin said that she was in a good place. “I’ve got a good life now. My husband is an amazing man. Tristen is all grown up but he’s the best son a mom could want,” she said, referring to her son. “Just because life is hard doesn’t mean that there aren’t blessings along the way,” she added. “So I continue to perform and write music. I continue to sing, and I will always do that. Am I going to become a household name? No, but I can make money doing it and it brings me happiness. And that’s what’s important. I’m doing well. I’m a survivor and I’ve come this far. That’s a good thing.”