TORONTO - Kelly Clarkson says judging someone a la "American Idol" isn't her style and she loves that she can "walk the walk and not just talk the talk" as one of the stars of the new ABC series "Duets."
The singing competition series — which starts Thursday and also airs on Global in Canada — will see Clarkson and fellow recording artists John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles performing onstage each week with their hand-picked "Duets" partners.
The winning partner will receive a recording contract with Hollywood Records.
"In complete honesty, on the most cheesy note possible, that's a lot of the reason why I chose to do the show, (because) whenever I was on 'Idol' I did not have anyone helping," Clarkson, who won "American Idol"'s inaugural season in 2002, said this week in a conference call with reporters.
"It was a brand-new show from the U.K. and nobody had really worked in the U.S. much and nobody really knew what they were doing. The show blew up around the Top 4, so I call it 'Ghetto Idol.' It was the ghetto season: we didn't have anything they have now, and not only that, we couldn't get songs cleared, we couldn't have people that were really helping us as contestants. It was more for the show.
"So I love the fact that 10 years later I get to actually be that person for two people that I get to hand-pick and I get to actually help."
The so-called "Duets" "superstars" searched the U.S. for two of their own amateur singing partners for the series.
Clarkson, a two-time Grammy Award winner who's said to be the most successful "Idol" contestant around the world, looked for talent in Nashville and San Diego and had a tough time finding people who could both sing well and harmonize.
"I'll bet if you took all the winners from all the shows — all the 'Idols' or all 'The Voices' — I'll bet you maybe three of them can harmonize, so it actually was a little difficult finding people that could duet," said the 30-year-old Texas native, who's also been a mentor on the televised singing competition "The Voice."
"I think it's something of an art to be able to know when to shine and when to pull back, and not only are the contestants learning that on the show, I think all of us are as well."
Clarkson said she found four potential duets partners but was only allowed to bring two to the series. Letting two of them go made her want "to crawl into a hole," she said.
"I would bawl. Like, I didn't handle it well. I didn't like telling people, 'Oh man, you didn't quite make it,'" said Clarkson, who's latest album, "Stronger," peaked at No. 2 on Billboard.
"I've literally been them, so it's very hard to watch them go."
Clarkson, Legend, Nettles and Thicke will also perform together on "Duets," while Quddus ("Total Request Live") hosts.
Legend is a last-minute replacement for Lionel Richie, who originally joined the series as a mentor but dropped out late last month due to personal scheduling conflicts.
The key to the winner's success will be persistence, noted Clarkson.
"You have to keep knocking on every damn door," she said. "Right after 'Idol,' people think it all landed in my lap. It did not. People hated 'Idol.' I don't know if anybody remembers that but all I did was get bashed left and right.
"It was a lot of hard work and playing all the state fairs you could do. My whole joke was 'I started playing in town manure and I still do.'"
Clarkson has been making headlines lately for her weight loss.
She attributed her slimmer figure to simply working out with a personal trainer, eating right and being in a "happy relationship" with talent manager Brandon Blackstock.
"If I'm being completely honest with you, no one likes to be not toned when you're dating someone," Clarkson said with a laugh.
"I'm kind of that girl — I tend to tone up or get fit whenever I want, and I choose to because my boyfriend and I are really both into it at the moment.... It's a common interest and that's really it. I would love to say it was for work but it wasn't."