Nikki McKibbin had previously revealed her “struggle every day” when she reflected on her life since reaching the final of American Idol in its first season.
Nikki died aged 42 over the weekend after suffering an aneurysm and she had opened up in an interview with People last year, in which she spoke about how her life changed after finishing third in the talent show in 2002.
She revealed at the time that there had been a “lot of ups and downs in my career, but also in life in general,” as she admitted that she had battled with substance abuse before her stint on American Idol.
Nikki said: “I’ve battled substance abuse and I’m winning, but it’s still a struggle every day. For a long time, I wasn’t taking care of myself.
“I wasn’t being the person I should be. I’m in a better place now.”
Speaking about the instant fame she found after appearing on the show, Nikki admitted that she had no idea how big American Idol would be before it premiered 18 years ago.
She said: “Then the show blew up and became a big thing and before I knew it, I was on magazine covers and being recognized everywhere I went.
“It was a good thing, but obviously my career never became what Kelly [Clarkson]’s was. Which is okay, but I was hoping that the exposure would be more for me.”
One myth she dispelled was that the show had made her extremely wealthy.
Nikki continued: “People automatically assumed that I was some millionaire because I was in the show, and nothing could be further from the truth.
“A couple of years later, I was still struggling financially, but people expect that you’re living this glamorous life and I’m like, ‘I’m just trying to pay my electric bill!’”
Despite social media not being about when she appeared on the show, it didn’t stop the contestants being hit with “brutal” comments from viewers.
Speaking about the height of the abuse, Nikki said: “The worst was when Tamyra [Grey] was voted off before me.
“There wasn’t social media, but there were message boards that basically said I should quit the competition because I was a fraud.
“The worst ones were saying that I should kill myself.”
She said that the hateful comments continued when it “came out that I had been a stripper before Idol. I did it for like five weeks and it became a scandal after I became famous.”
Nikki opened up about her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse over the years, which led her to appear on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew in 2008.
She said: “I did deal with addiction and that was hard, and I, unfortunately, made that a public thing with Dr Drew.
“So then I had to explain to people that I was ok, that I was recovering, that I was fine.
“But now people always assume that I’m on something even when I’m not. I get it, though. I lied so much and was in such denial that how can you possibly believe me? I get it.”
Before her death, Nikki said that she had finally found herself in a good place with an “amazing” husband.
She continued: “I’ve got a good life now. My husband is an amazing man.
“Tristen is all grown up but he’s the best son a mom could want.
“Just because life is hard doesn’t mean that there aren’t blessings along the way.”
Her husband Craig shared an emotional tribute to Nikki on Saturday, telling her fans: “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.
“That shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Even at the end she is still giving.”
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