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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 6

Original 'Idol' winner Kelly Clarkson says judges are "a little harsh"

By Christopher Rocchio, 01/25/2007 

Original American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson has tossed in her two cents about the criticism Idol's judges and producers have been receiving over the way lesser talented hopefuls have been treated and portrayed during auditions for the Fox mega-hit's sixth season.

"The judges are a little harsh this time.  But they sit all day and watch all these people come through, so you have to give them some credit," Clarkson told Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos during Wednesday night's broadcast of the syndicated entertainment news television program.  

Clarkson told Menounos that she's "kind of excited" for the sixth season of Idol since it's the first time she's actually been able to sit down and watch because "I'm always on tour every time it comes on."  Personally, she said the "best part" of Idol is the "beginning shows" when people are "just horrible," referring to the auditions that have caused the series to take some flack from critics for the treatment of contestants.

"We're thinking [the judges] are being harsh, but what is everybody saying when they're [watching] at home?" asked Clarkson.  "People are different.  [Idol is] going to different parts of America, and there are different people in different parts of America...and you love them and they're great and they're so passionate about it."

Idol has specifically been taking heat for last week's broadcast of the Seattle auditions, when Special Olympics participant Jonathan Jayne and Kenneth Briggs, another hopeful Jayne befriended in line, took the brunt of the judge's criticism for a city that judge Simon Cowell summed up as "absolutely atrocious."  Special Olympics International has since "commended" Idol for allowing Jayne to audition.

"It's not justification for them being mean," said Clarkson.  "[But the judges] are nothing compared to what critics are going to say about you.  You're going to have to be able to put up with people.  If you think that's mean, just stop now, because it gets a lot worse."

Access Hollywood was on the set of Clarkson's new NASCAR commercials, which she is filming to promote NASCAR Day.  She said NASCAR "thought it would be cool to incorporate charities with the fans," so the stock-car racing circuit is selling $5 pins with all proceeds going to numerous charities that its drivers are involved with.

"It's kind of cool.  I liked it, so I'm part of it," said Clarkson.  "You always like to be involved with things that are uplifting and that give back."

Clarkson is filming two different spots to promote NASCAR Day.  She described the first as being "more funny," while the second is less humorous and explains more about what NASCAR Day is.  A native of North Carolina, Clarkson said her family members are "huge fans" of NASCAR, but she didn't know much about it until she was the grand marshal for a race last September.

"It was a blast," she said.  "[NASCAR] totally recruited me and we've become partners."

The Grammy Award winner's involvement with NASCAR includes an at-track concert, television spots, charitable endeavors and an appearance at NASCAR's Awards Dinner. The relationship, which Clarkson said she is receiving "no paycheck" for, officially kicks-off on Sunday, February 18 during the NEXTEL Tribute to America, a salute to music that Clarkson will headline prior to the Daytona 500.

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