McKibbin died following complications from a brain aneurysm that occurred Wednesday. According to her husband, Craig Sadler, the singer was kept on life support in order to fulfill her wish of being an organ donor.
Shortly after news broke of her tragic death, Idol‘s Twitter page paid their respects to the Season 1 contestant: “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. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.”
Idol host Ryan Seacrest also took time out to share his thoughts on the late singer. “Nikki was a superstar the moment she walked into auditions,” he tweeted. “She set the bar high with her talent and memorable stage presence. It was an honor to watch her grow and inspire millions of people. Our hearts go out to her family, friends, and fans who are grieving this tragic loss.”
Paula Abdul, who served as a judge during the series’ first nine seasons, tweeted: “Nikki McKibbin was a strong & spirited woman who always stayed true to who she was. She could bring the house down with her powerful voice and captivating stage presence. Our first season of Idol would not have been what it was without her. My love & prayers go out to her family.”
McKibbin made the Top 3 on her season, losing only to winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini. Guarini eulogized McKibbin on Instagram, calling 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.” Read his full post below.
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@realnikkimckibbin was 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. 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… …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. 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. #rip #americanidol
Ryan Starr, who made it to the Top 7 in Idol‘s inaugural season, shared photos and memories of McKibbin in her Instagram stories. “So young. So sad. Feels so strange to have shared such a special moment in history with these other 9 people and to know that now one of them is no longer with us. R.I.P. NIKKI.”
Season 1’s Jim Verraros also took to Instagram writing, “@realnikkimckibbin, I can’t believe you’re gone. You were such a light for so many of us. You were unapologetically yourself and I loved that the most about you. You will be missed but I will always hold you close to my heart. Rest In Peace, beautiful soul.”
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@realnikkimckibbin, I can’t believe you’re gone. You were such a light for so many of us. You were unapologetically yourself and I loved that the most about you. You will be missed but I will always hold you close to my heart. Rest In Peace, beautiful soul. #nikkimckibbin #idolmates #rip #loveyou #gonetoosoon