'Idol' Winner Kelly: The Mornings After

updated 09/06/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2002 10:00AM

After emerging as the victor on "American Idol" -- in front of more than 40 million viewers who watched at least some part of Fox's two-hour finale Wednesday night -- former cocktail waitress Kelly Clarkson of Burleson, Texas, can likely kiss anonymity goodbye.

So what's next for her?

To start with, her victory song, "A Moment Like This," will be arriving in music stores from RCA Records Sept. 17 and is all but guaranteed to become a hit.

Speaking backstage at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre after beating out mop-top Justin Guarini, 23, to win the pop-wannabe competition, Clarkson, 20, told reporters she will participate in some media events during the next several days, and then take four days off.

"I like to entertain in general," said Clarkson, according to the Associated Press. "I'll do whatever comes my way if I think it's good at the time."

Beyond that, she said, her future -- fueled by the $1 million recording contract she won on the show -- remains up in the air.

Sooner rather than later, however, Clarkson and Guarini will join the show's eight other finalists for a 28-city tour set to kick off later this month with a stop that will include a Las Vegas gig to be broadcast on Fox, says AP.

As for going Hollywood, forget it: "I'm living in Texas," she said. "I don't care how many times I have to fly" to make recordings in L.A.

As for the rest of us, the success of "American Idol" means TV will never be the same, at least for a while. Insofar as its ratings, the finale performed better than any other show of the summer, and better than such previous summer hits as ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and NBC's "Fear Factor," reports The New York Times. The paper notes that only the CBS blockbuster "Survivor" performed better in its first season.

So, imitation being the sincerest form of getting ratings, viewers should expect a country-music version of "Idol" from USA Network and, on CBS, a revival of "Star Search," the one-time syndicated series that shared the talent-contest format, The Times warns.

Meanwhile, the next edition of "American Idol" will arrive in January.



Can't get enough "Idol"? Check out PEOPLE's backstage peek at the "American Idol" finalists.

An "American Idol" photo gallery: The Final Three

Dressed to Trill: PEOPLE's "Idol" fashion review

MORE ON: Kelly Clarkson

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