Nikki McKibbin, a standout contestant on the first season of American Idol, shared her final photo on Instagram just over a month before her sudden death Sunday morning. In the photo, McKibbin posed with her granddaughter and took a shot at celebrity blogger Perez Hilton for his reporting on her in the past. McKibbin died from a brain aneurysm. She was 42.
On Sept. 16, McKibbin published what turned out to be her final Instagram post. In it, she poses with her granddaughter, with their faces covered by filters. "From drunk mess to sober blimp to doting nana. I haven't forgotten [laughing out loud]," McKibbin wrote in the caption, tagging Hilton. After her time on American Idol, McKibbin struggled with alcoholism and appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew Pinsky in 2008. During her time on the show, she was treated for cocaine and alcohol addiction and discussed the physical and sexual abuse she experienced as a child. She also appeared in the Celebrity Rehab spinoff Sober House.
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McKibbin was rushed to the hospital early Sunday morning and was put on life support, sources close to her family told TMZ. She was taken into the operating room at about 3 a.m., where she was pronounced dead. Her organs were harvested to be donated. "Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing. She was part of our American Idol family and will be truly missed," American Idol representatives said in a statement. "Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time."
McKibbin finished third on Idol, behind eventual winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini. She performed covers of "Unchained Melody," "Piece of My Heart," "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," "Black Velvet" and "Edge of Seventeen" during her time on the show. She went on to appear in several other reality shows and released her album Unleashed in 2007.
The singer is survived by her husband, Craig Sadler, whom she married in 2007, and their son, Tristan Cole Langley. In 2014, Tristan auditioned for American Idol Season 14 but was eliminated before the Hollywood shows. In the years before her death, McKibbin was a singing teacher in Fort Worth, Texas.
I witnessed my friend Nikki (McKibbin) Sadler go from a Karaoke bar to finalist on 1st year of American Idol. She is on life support after suffering an aneurysm. They will end life support tonight. Please pray for her husband Craig and family. I am heartbroken.❤🙏❤🙏 pic.twitter.com/o1K582r1eq— Gary McNamara (@garyredeye1) November 1, 2020
Guarini was among those who shared tributes to McKibbin on social media. He called McKibbin "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." He went on to thank her for "the laughter, merciless teasing, strength, vulnerability, love and friendship you showed me during our time together in the spotlight."