Nikki McKibbin, American Idol Finalist from Show's First Season, Dies at 42

Maria Pasquini
·3 min read

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage Nikki McKibbin

Nikki McKibbin, who came in third place in the first season of American Idol, has died. She was 42.

Her husband Craig posted an emotional tribute on Saturday, sharing that his wife “suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday" but had been kept on life support in order to donate her organs to people in need.

“Many of you already know something is wrong. The love of my life Nikki Sadler suffered an aneurysm on Wednesday. She would already be gone, but she's an organ donor and has been kept on life support to make that possible,” he wrote on social media. “That shouldn't be a surprise to us. Even at the end she is still giving.”

“There are only a few hours left for me to hold her hand and kiss her forehead. The current Covid situation won't allow the huge service that she deserves, but I would like to offer you the opportunity to honor her,” he added. “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.”

Continuing, he wrote, “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.”

Season one runner-up Justin Guarini also went on to share a touching tribute to the singer.

“@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,” he wrote.

“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,” he continued, before referencing one of her stand-out performances on the show. “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...”

As the post came to a close, Guarini added, “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.”

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KMazur/WireImage Justin Guarini and Nikki McKibbin

Born in Grand Prairie, Texas, the actress competed on Popstars in 2001, just one year before stepping onto the Idol stage. Her first album, Unleashed was released in 2007, followed by a Christmas album the following year.

She went on to appear on the reality series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, in 2008, seeking treatment for an alcohol and cocaine addiction, according to Variety.

In 2014, McKibbin briefly returned to Idol, to support her son Tristen Langley, then 15, who got eliminated after making it past the audition round.

Two years later, McKibbin went on to undergo a number of back surgeries.