Kelly Clarkson was raised by her school teacher mom Jeanne Taylor
Kelly Clarkson’s family life has had its share of difficulties, but the singer has always come out “Stronger” on the other side.
The “Miss Independent” singer was born on April 24, 1982, to mom Jeanne Taylor and dad Stephen Clarkson. She was raised in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, as the youngest of three siblings. At age 6, her father left the family and moved to California, a childhood experience that inspired the poignant lyrics of her 2004 hit “Because of You.”
The Grammy award winner has spoken candidly about her strained relationship with Stephen, noting that she tried to repair it “a few times” before his death.
“If you don't grow up with it, it’s hard to miss something you never had,” she explained on the talk show Skavlan in 2017. A few years later, in February 2019, The Voice alum revealed to Forbes that her dad had died months earlier.
Despite this pain, Kelly said that her experience with Stephen empowered her. "I have no hatefulness, no anger, no nothing about it," she said on Skavlan. "I've had such hard things family-wise happen to me at such a young age that I think in the industry ... they say anything and I'm like 'okay.' We just try our best."
Kelly's mom supported her through these tough moments and has cheered her on during her career. The songstress described her mom as “one of my favorite people on the planet — my favorite, possibly,” while welcoming her as a guest star on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2019.
From her difficult relationship with her late father to her tight-knit bond with her mother, here’s everything to know about Kelly Clarkson's parents.
Stephen left when Kelly was 6 years old
Stephen left the family early on when Kelly was just 6 years old. Soon after splitting from her mom, he moved from Texas to California, and Kelly’s older brother went to live with him there. Her older sister moved in with their aunt, while Kelly remained with her mom.
The two lived on their own until Jeanne remarried, at which point the family expanded to include five other children.
“I think that’s why I adapt well — nothing really phases me,” Kelly said of the changes in her home life during a 2017 appearance on Skavlan. “I’m actually thankful for that environment.”
Stephen and Kelly were estranged
During her Skavlan appearance, Kelly spoke candidly about her rocky relationship with her dad. She confirmed that she had “never really been in touch with him,” adding that she was used to his absence.
“I know a lot of people go, ‘Awww,’ but it’s not really that situation if you don’t grow up with it,” Kelly said.
The “Catch My Breath” singer added that she made an effort to reconnect with her dad “a few times” over the years, mainly on her older brother’s behalf. “He’s a decade older than me and he’s that kid who always wanted everybody to come together. He’s got such a big heart and he wanted it to work,” she said. Ultimately, she found that Stephen created a toxic situation whenever she would reach out, so she decided to stop initiating contact.
“Even if it’s not your father, whoever it is in your life, if someone presents such a cancerous environment, and then just keeps hurting you — even if they’re doing it inadvertently and they just don’t know better, you should just not have that person in your life,” she said, adding that it doesn’t need to be a “hateful situation,” but rather “you just go your own way.”
Stephen's absence helped Kelly build strong self-worth
After years of attempting to establish a bond with her dad, Kelly eventually gave up on trying, she said on Skavlan. Calling the experience of repeatedly reaching out to him “humiliating,” she explained that it taught her a valuable lesson: to know her worth.
“You keep trying, and you think, ‘You know what, I shouldn’t have to work this hard for someone to love [me]. That’s a little ridiculous,’ ” she said. Kelly added that over time, she was able to “grow up” and see the situation from a distance, noting that she didn't think her dad was “capable” of building a loving relationship.
Stephen inspired several of Kelly's songs
Kelly has long used her lyrics as an outlet to work through her emotions, resulting in some of her most powerful ballads. Her father’s absence inspired the lyrics of one of her earliest hits, 2004’s “Because of You,” which she began writing at age 16. The song detailed the impact of her dad’s departure, with Kelly singing, “Because of you, I don't know how to let anyone else in / Because of you, I'm ashamed of my life because it's empty / Because of you, I am afraid."
In 2015, the Grammy winner penned a sequel of sorts, “Piece by Piece,” that was inspired by watching then-husband Brandon Blackstock be a present and loving father to their daughter together (the pair welcomed a son soon after). She wrote the song as if she’s talking to her father, pointing out all the ways Blackstock was better suited to parenthood.
The lyrics initially praised Blackstock for the ways he’d helped Kelly to heal from her father’s absence. "But piece by piece, he collected me up / Off the ground, where you abandoned things, yeah / Piece by piece, he filled the holes that you burned in me / At 6 years old and you know,” Kelly sang on the original version.
In the wake of the former couple's divorce, Kelly has since altered the lyrics to reflect how she’s able to heal herself, transforming the song into an anthem of self-empowerment.
Stephen died in 2018
Kelly kept the news of her father’s death quiet for a while after his death.
She grieved privately until she revealed that he’d died “months ago” during a February 2019 interview with Forbes. After sharing the news, Kelly talked about how emotional she gets singing songs inspired by her dad since she became a parent.
"It's like a loss on a lot of different levels. So I think it's always when I get to that last part of the song ["Piece by Piece"] that it really does [get emotional]," she said. "It's just the sense of loss that I just don't know if I'll ever not feel just because ... I'm a mom of two kids that aren't even from my womb that I still couldn't imagine treating the way that I was."
Jeanne is a teacher
Kelly proudly introduced her mom as her “favorite teacher” during a September 2019 appearance on her eponymous talk show.
“My mom is a teacher, and I always brag on that,” she told the audience, while Jeanne sat beside her. Calling her “the greatest teacher ever,” Kelly extolled her mom’s dedication to her work. “I’ve seen her in action when I was a kid — she is so great and spends her own time, her own money,” she said. “She really went above and beyond.”
After asking Jeanne what made her want to be a teacher in the first place, Kelly's mom replied that she was inspired by many of the teachers she’d met along the way.
“As I was growing up I had good teachers, and I had some that were not so good,” she said. Jeanne added that while she “learned wonderful things from the good teachers,” it was the teachers who were “rude” and “mean” to students that truly motivated her.
“I thought, ‘I don’t ever want to be that way. I want kids to want to come to school. I want them to love learning. I want them to be lifelong learners, because I am. I want it to be fun, I want to meet them at the door and welcome them in. I want them to love it,” she explained, prompting cheers from the audience.
Jeanne shares a close bond with Kelly
Kelly offered a rare glimpse into her tight-knit bond with Jeanne in 2017 when sharing a sweet Mother’s Day tribute.
“Happy Mama's Day to this beautiful, strong, & bold woman!” she wrote alongside a smiling shot of the duo and Kelly's daughter River. She went on to share some of her favorite traits about her mom, writing, “She hands u the truth, doesn't take s--- from anybody, & loves w/her whole heart!”
Kelly learned perseverance from her mother
Speaking to PEOPLE in 2022, Kelly revealed the important life lesson she learned from her mom Jeanne: "just persevere."
"When [my parents] divorced, I ended up with my mom, and she put herself through college," Clarkson said. "I went to some of her classes with her because she didn't have childcare — and I watched her push through so many hurdles. She taught me you can do hard things, to never quit."
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