The world of reality television was dealth a tragic and shocking blow over the weekend.
As previously reported, Nikki McKibbin, the third-place finisher on the very first year of American Idol, died at the young age of 42.
The singer’s passing was confirmed on Facebook by her husband, Craig, who told fans that his wife suffered a brain aneurysm last Wednesday.
Because she was an organ donor, however, McKibbin was kept alive until very early Sunday morning, during which time she was taken off life support and her organs harvested to help others.
“Even at the end she is still giving,” wrote Craig, adding:
“She was so loved that I know thousands of you will be grieving with us.”
Concluded Craig yesterday:
She will be taken to the OR at 3:00 am Central time to give her final gift that will save the lives of strangers.
You probably know she practically worshiped Stevie Nicks.
Before they begin, they will play Landslide for her one last time.
If you are able, you can pause at 3:00 wherever you are and listen to it with her. She will know that you’re sharing her farewell. She loved so many of you and I know you loved her too.
In the wake of McKibbin’s passing, the official American Idol Twitter page also acknowledged this awful news.
“Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing,” it reads.
“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.”
Justin Guarini, meanwhile, who finished one spot ahead of Nikki back in 2002 on American Idol, paid tribute to his fellow contestant as follows:
@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…b
ut 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.
Paula Abdul, one of the three original American Idol co-judges, also paid tribute to the late finalist.
“Nikki McKibbin was a strong & spirited woman who always stayed true to who she was,” Abdul wrote on Twitter.
“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.”
During her run on American Idol, Nikki won the hearts of viewers through performances of tracks such as Nicks’ “Seventeen,” Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet.”
In 2008, Nikki appeared on season two of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.
Three years later, she gave a performance on the fifth season of the reality show to celebrate three years of sobriety.
In addition to Craig, Nikki is survived by her son, Tristen Cole Langley, 22, who auditioned for season 13 of American Idol; and a granddaughter.
“Nikki considered her most important roles in life to be wife, mother and grandmother,” Craig told E! News in a statement. “Of all the amazing things she did, her devotion to her family soars about the rest. Our lives will never be the same without her.
“Nikki would never forgive me if I arranged a large gathering during a pandemic,” he added.
“At some point when it’s safer, we will give her a proper celebration of life so that her hundreds of friends can have some closure.
“We want to have the kind of event she deserves when it’s safe.”