Kelly Clarkson knows people talk about her weight.
“Even on American Idol I was really thin, but I was bigger than the other girls on the show, so people would say things to me,” the singer — who won the hit Fox reality singing competition in 2002 — says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “But luckily I am superconfident, so I’ve never had a problem with shutting people down and saying, ‘Yeah, you know, that’s just what I’m rocking. It’s fine.’ ”
While Clarkson, 35, says she’s “never felt the need to be a certain weight,” there have been moments of insecurity.
In 2007 she admitted she was bulimic for a short time in her early teens because she felt she’d get better parts in her school musicals if she was thinner. And she recently told Attitude magazine, “When I was really skinny, I wanted to kill myself. I was miserable, like, inside and out, for four years of my life. But no one cared, because aesthetically you make sense.”
But at her recent iHeartRadio album-release party in L.A., Clarkson clarified those comments had more to do with having to smile through the “arranged marriage” of her first post-Idol record deal and the stresses of her career rather than feeling suicidal: “People are always pushing us, but we’re also pushing ourselves and you don’t really know your limits until it’s too late sometimes.”
For more from Clarkson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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Helping Clarkson find balance is her husband, music manager Brandon Blackstock, 40, and their children — Clarkson’s stepkids Savannah and Seth, as well as daughter River Rose, 3, and18-month-old son Remington Alexander.
“I feel sexy and far more intelligent and wiser,” Clarkson says of life as a wife and mom. “I don’t think you have to get married. I don’t think you have to have children. But once I got married and had kids, my level of empowerment grew to another level.”
Clarkson credits her family for giving her the life experience necessary to record Meaning of Life.
“A lot of these songs you have to have lived for you to be able to sing them,” she says. “And I’m living!”
Meaning of Life is available now.