Nikki McKibbin: Justin Guarini Pays Tribute to Late 'American Idol' Castmate

Nikki McKibbin, who finished third on American Idol Season 1, has died, and fellow contestant Justin Guarini is sharing his heartbreak. The late singer, 42, died on Sunday morning after being on life support for an undisclosed time. Her state was brought on by a brain aneurysm.

Shortly before she was taken off life support, Guarini the second-place finisher on McKibbin's season of Idol, apparently heard of her condition and shared his memories and thoughts of her. He described her as "a fiery, funny lady who could sing the Hell out of a rock song with the same kind of ease and command she lovingly used to cut you with her twangy Southern wit," before going into their time together on landmark singing competition.

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"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. After the kind of emotional beating she took at the hands of the masses, she deserved to feel good about herself, even for a little while."

He closed by telling her to "rest well" and reflecting on all their friendship had given him.
"Thank you for the laughter, merciless teasing, strength, vulnerability, love and friendship you showed me during our time together in the spotlight," he wrote.

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McKibbin's season of Idol is perhaps the show's most memorable, as it made the show a phenomenon and launched the career of winner Kelly Clarkson. However, McKibbin was unable to turn her time on the series into a huge music career. After some behind-the-scenes misfires, McKibbin finally released an album in 2007, entitled Unleashed. Elsewhere, she furthered her legacy in the reality TV realm by appearing on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Fear Factor, Battle of the Network Reality Stars and Celebrity Rehab Presents Sober House.

She also made an encore appearance on American Idol when her son, Tristan Langley, auditioned for the series in 2014. He passed the auditions but was cut shortly afterward.