Kelly Clarkson: Rena Durham/KPA/Newscom
Brian Hiatt
December 23, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Kelly Clarkson went from winning a glorified talent show to scoring a No. 1 album — but now, she’s headed back to Fox for one more competition. This time, the first ”American Idol” winner will represent the United States against 10 other countries — from Norway to South Africa — on the two-part ”World Idol,” which kicks off Dec. 25. After viewers worldwide weigh in with telephone votes (with a points system that will discount the United States’ large population), the results will air Jan. 1. Clarkson took a break from rehearsals to tell why she was willing to run for reelection.

So when they told you about ”World Idol,” did you say, ”No way, not again”?
Actually, I was pretty pumped. The only reason I wanted to do ”American Idol” was because it was live, national television where all of America could see me. And it’s an even bigger scale doing ”World Idol” — the whole world’s gonna see it. That’s a great way to showcase yourself, my friend.

Do overseas audiences have the slightest idea who you are?
What’s funny is they don’t know me from ”American Idol,” but they know my songs. So they don’t know my face yet. What’s gonna be funny is they’re all gonna tune into this show and they’re going to be like, ”Oh, that’s the chick that sings ‘Miss Independent.”’ It’s the complete opposite of here.

Have you studied up on the competition, like Heinz Winckler from South Africa and Alicja Janosz from Poland?
[Sheepishly] No, I haven’t. Should I have? But my thing is, I just like hearing everybody sing. I can’t wait to see the Arabic chick [Lebanon’s Diana Karazon] — I hear she sings, like, beautiful Arabic music. But I’m not really competing, to be honest with you. I just want to put on a great show — I’d rather be remembered than win.

But isn’t it demeaning to return to a talent show after all your success?
But I never looked at it that way — I never even looked at ”American Idol” that way. I wasn’t looking at it to win. I was looking at it as, this is as an awesome way to get noticed. The past two years before that I was working my butt off in L.A. — and I had two record deals offered to me before ”American Idol,” but they were deals where they’d take complete control of who I was, and I’m not down with that. I’d rather be a waitress the rest of my life.

That seems unlikely at this point. What will you sing on the show?
I can’t tell you, I’m sorry. But I can say that I know the song like the back of my hand — I’ve been in love with it since I was a little girl. It’s a nice, big, soulful song.

Let’s say you win and become World Idol. Would you then be ready to take on the best singers from, say, Neptune and Pluto?
Yeah, I can kick their butt, man. Bring ’em at me.

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