“American Idol” judge Simon Cowell has said some harsh things to contestants over the years. He’s accused contestants of being borderline mentally challenged, said they “killed” his favorite songs, called their singing “dreadful” and told an number of budding singers that they’ll never, ever have a chance at a career.
But, according to “Idol” season one’s third-place finisher, flame-haired Nikki McKibbin, Cowell’s particularly harsh comments about her talent sent the Texas native into a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and depression that at one point landed her in a mental ward. McKibbin tells Us Weekly that she “came out of ’Idol’ with a lack of self-confidence.”
After beginning her singing career with her first solo in school at the age of 5, McKibbin had felt confident of her skills. “I had never been told I wasn’t good enough,” she told the magazine. “Having to hear it for so many weeks from Simon Cowell killed me inside. I couldn’t get the sh– he had said to me out of my head. … It drove me deeper into my depression. I wouldn’t say that this was Simon’s fault. It just added to the addict that I already was.”
McKibbin, 30, who will appear in the upcoming second season of the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” has struggled to get her singing career off the ground since finishing behind Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson on the first season of the show. Her attempts have included signing with RCA Records and 19 Management (and being dropped after spurning their suggestion to make a country album), a short stint in the Dallas rock band Downside and a series of appearances on reality shows, including “Fear Factor,” “Battle of the Network Reality Stars” and “Kill Reality.” She released her debut album, Unleashed, on an indie label in 2007.
McKibbin tells the magazine that Cowell’s harsh putdowns, including comparing one of her performances to Adam Sandler’s caterwauling character in “The Wedding Singer,” sometimes drove her to drown her sorrows in booze.
“We were heavily chaperoned, but I would buy vodka and sneak it into the refrigerator on the bottom floor,” McKibbin said. “If I wasn’t too exhausted, I’d have one or two drinks.”
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