Kelly Clarkson’s NBCUniversal talk show, launched this month, rocketed out of the gate with the highest-rated premiere in seven years. With 2.16 million viewers and a 1.6 household rating, according to Nielsen, it clocked in fourth among first-run syndicated shows in the talk-show genre. The “Kelly Clarkson Show” has also proven a draw for Norwegian Cruise Line, which signed the singer to a three-year deal that gives it plenty of exposure with integrations within the program. As part of the pact, Clarkson has become the “godmother” of its newest ship, Encore, which she will christen November 21 in Miami. The interview is lightly edited.
The talk show had a strong debut. How does it feel to do?
I’m loving it. My husband asked me to do the show a couple of times and I was like, “No. This is not going to go well,” and I’m really glad he convinced me. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.
What was it about Norwegian that made you want to partner with them?
I thought it would be an awesome thing, I have a big family and we like to take vacations together. Also it’s good with my show. [I’m giving away cruises] to hardworking teachers or parents that don’t get a break. It’s something to surprise people on the show. It was a good fit.
You gave seven-day cruises to the whole audience on “The Ellen
DeGeneres Show,” right?
I felt like fricking Oprah. Not everyone got a car, but they all got a cruise. That’s the cool thing about Norwegian, I asked if they minded if I gave away a cruise and they where like, “How about giving one to the whole audience?” But I felt bad. I went from that show to the taping of another show and I gave away something else [much smaller]. It was not a cruise. I felt so bad I was like, “You should have been at ‘Ellen.’”
As an artist, how do you think about collaborating with brands? It used to be seen as selling out.
People take this way too seriously. I’ve been in a room with some artists and they are like, “I’m not doing that. That is totally not cool.” And I’m like, “What?” It was some little thing [they were being asked to do]. It was nothing. I said, “What are we talking about here? No one in this room is John Lennon and I need someone to know that.” I think people do take themselves too seriously, but I also think that you shouldn’t be a part of something unless you are really into it.
Meaning that you use the brand?
I’ve been asked to do stuff that I’m not into. I’m not a soda person, I don’t drink soda. It’s not really my thing. So I ended up doing a water deal. When labels and managers talk artists into doing something that they don’t want to do because it doesn’t go with them, people are going to see right through it. It’s going to be transparent. As long a you’re into it, it will work. As long as it’s natural.
Have you evolved since ‘American Idol’?
I have progressed, obviously—one hopes—as an adult, but I’m not really different. I know it sounds like such a cliché thing that famous people say, but believe me when I say I don’t care about being famous. I don’t. I really enjoy my life. I feel really blessed. I recently turned 37 and I told myself I was going to say yes to things I normally say no to. And it was because of someone passing away in my life. I’ve got to seize the day. You know that you have to step outside your comfort zone because you only have your comfort zone for so long.
Speaking of comfort zones, what do you like the most? Singing, acting?
I 100 percent hate acting. So that will never be the answer. Oh my God, I hate acting. I was forced into absolutely everything you see me do. I was shamed or blackmailed.
What is your media diet like?
With four children, it all consists of kids stuff. I’m really trying to teach the little ones how to read ... “Diary of a Wimpy Kid," that kind of stuff. I have to read the books with them to make sure they are actually reading them! Someone sent me a book that will be released soon on Meryl Streep, I’m reading that because I’m a huge fan. In the watching department, I recently got addicted to this show “Lucifer,” which has been around awhile. I’m really late, I never have time to watch anything. I also recently started watching “The West Wing” ’cause it came out on iTunes and I love that show. I was obsessed with it.
What advice would you have for people starting out?
Run. I’m just kidding. I always say this to everyone who I come in contact with who asks: “Do you have really good people around you?” Life will suck unless you really surround you with people you like. It’s a really hard business—not just this business, any business, whether you’re a writer, a teacher, whatever. You have to surround yourself with good people. You can be No. 1 in the world and the top of your game and be the saddest person on the planet.
This issue of Ad Age goes to the Association of National Advertisers, where you performed last year. What do you think about when you think about marketing?
Julie Greenwald—she runs my label—is a marketing genius. It is scary how good she is. When you get around people who are so good and know your product, it is incredible to watch them. I’m like a marketer’s worst nightmare. I never do what someone wants to me to do. I just do what I want to do and people are going to like it or not. My previous label said “You can’t say that,” and I’m like, “I did, though.”