Nikki McKibbin, an “American Idol” contestant who finished third on the reality competition series’ debut season, has died at age 42.
The singer-songwriter’s husband, Craig Sadler, announced the news in an emotional Facebook post on Saturday, referring to McKibbin by her married name. He said she suffered a brain aneurysm earlier in the week and was on life support until early Sunday morning.
“Many of you already know something is wrong. The love of my life Nikki Sadler suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday,” he wrote. “She was so loved that I know thousands of you will be grieving with us.”
McKibbin appeared on “American Idol” in 2002 and placed behind Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, who went onto win the competition.
She’s perhaps best remembered on the show for her renditions of songs by female rock singers such as Alanis Morissette, Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge. Her performance of Alannah Myles’ song “Black Velvet” in the Season 1 finale ranked as her most beloved by fans.
Guarini posted a heartfelt tribute on Instagram Saturday and described McKibbin as a “fiery, funny lady who could sing the hell out of a rock song.”
“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,” Guarini wrote. “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.”
He added: “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.”
“American Idol” also eulogized McKibbin on Twitter Sunday.
“Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent, and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing,” the statement read. “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.”
Prior to “American Idol,” the native of Grand Prairie, Texas, appeared on the first season of The WB’s series “Popstars” in 2001, competing to join the girl group Eden’s Crush.
Her career stalled after “Idol” when she clashed with Sony Music’s RCA record label about the direction of her debut album, which wasn’t released until 2007.
The following year, she appeared on “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” seeking treatment for cocaine and alcohol addiction, Variety reported. She was also a cast member on the spinoff series, “Celebrity Rehab Presents Sober House,” and later made guest appearances on shows including “Fear Factor” and “Battle of the Network Reality Stars.”
McKibbin returned to “Idol” in 2014 to support her then-15-year-old son, Tristen Langley, during the Season 13 audition round.