Kelly Clarkson’s talk show has proven to be a big hit with TV audiences: the singer-turned-host’s bubbly personality and human touch proving a winning formula. Yet for the famously warm-hearted Clarkson, a touching story involving a little girl’s adoption proved to be almost too much to bear.
Clarkson, as well as being a hugely successful performer, coach on The Voice and now a daytime TV favorite, is also a mother. She was married to Brandon Blackstock since 2013, and the couple had two children together, daughter River Rose and son Remington Alexander. Clarkson is also stepmom to her ex-husband’s two children from a previous marriage.
Clarkson is well-known as a successful singer, having scored international hits with songs such as “Because of You” and “Breakaway”. The Texan’s road to success began in 2002 when the then 20-year-old entered, and won, the very first season of the TV singing competition American Idol. It was a victory that launched Clarkson to stardom.
The singer has won three Grammy Awards to date, and in 2018 joined hit TV show The Voice as a coach for season 14. She later reprised her role on subsequent seasons. If that wasn’t enough, the entertainer has also written two children’s books and voiced the main character in the 2019 animated movie UglyDolls.
Now Clarkson has added a successful daytime TV talk show host to her impressive resume. It was announced in September 2018 that Clarkson would be in the hot seat of her own show, and a year later, The Kelly Clarkson Show was first broadcast on NBC with Dwayne Johnson appearing as the first ever guest.
Clarkson has relished her new role as host. At the time the show was announced the singer was excited to say the least. “I love connecting with people, playing games, music and finding ways to help or give back to communities/organizations. Having my own talk show where I get to do all of these things is pretty much a dream job!” she said.
The show has proved to be a massive hit with the public too, with average audiences clocking in at around 1.8 million in its debut season. Critics have also been impressed, with The Kelly Clarkson Show receiving nominations for Best Talk Show at the 2020 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, and Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show at the 2020 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Clarkson’s success as a host is unsurprising, according to Tracie Wilson of NBCUniversal, which distributes the show. “Kelly is the exact same person off camera that she is on camera,” Wilson told Variety. “She’s putting her heart and soul into the show, and that’s coming through to the viewer.”
On an episode of the show broadcast in March 2020, with Clarkson interviewing guests online due to Covid-19 restrictions, the host once again revealed that heart which has proven so appealing to viewers. Her guests for the show were country singer Thomas Rhett and his wife Lauren Akins. The pair had a heartwarming story to tell.
Thomas Rhett was born Thomas Rhett Akins Jr., the son of famous country singer Rhett Akins. Rhett began his music career in 2010 after dropping out of university. Two years later, the singer and songwriter debuted with single “Something To Do With My Hands” which climbed the Country Singles Chart and peaked at number 17.
Since then Rhett has scored considerable success, twice winning Male Artist of the Year from the Academy of Country Music Awards. He has also scored two nominations for Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards in both 2018 and 2020 with Life Changes and Center Point Road respectively. Both of those albums topped the Billboard 200.
As well as his music career, Rhett’s relationship is also high-profile thanks to the adorable story behind the romance with his wife, Lauren Akins. The pair originally met in the first grade, and even dated briefly when the pair were 15. Even after that relationship broke up, Rhett and Akins, who was Lauren Gregory at the time, continued to be good friends.
Rhett has often recalled the story of the romance. “We dated once when we were 15, and it didn’t work out. We dated for like six months. We remained best friends even after we broke up. We both dated other people for like five years,” the singer told Taste of Country in 2012.
But Rhett still had feelings for his childhood sweetheart, and soon sensed his opportunity. “When I heard that she had ended her other relationship — this was last spring — I moved in for the kill. We kissed, and that was it. We dated for probably six months, and we got engaged last December, around Christmastime,” he told Taste of Country. The pair got married in 2012.
Rhett’s career then went from success to success. The singer was also happily married to the girl he had known for most of his life, but behind the scenes, not everything was perfect. Sadly, the pair were struggling to start a family. “We tried to get pregnant for a little bit before,” Akins told People in 2017.
Akins revealed to People a little more about the amount of time she spent with her husband trying to get pregnant. “It was a good chunk of time and our family is extremely fertile, so I was expecting it to happen easily. I was like, ‘Maybe this is the Lord’s way of telling me adoption is what he wants me to do.” And I was okay with that,” said Akins.
And on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Akins told the host that adoption was never something that she felt uncomfortable about. Indeed, she revealed that her own mother was in fact adopted, and that she had “always talked about adopting” throughout her “whole life.” It certainly wasn’t something that she unaware of or intimidated by.
“I just thought it was really cool,” Akins told Clarkson about the subject of adopting. It also wasn’t an unfamiliar subject between Rhett and his wife. “We’d talked about it off and on, but it wasn’t something that we had sat down and had, like, a full-on adoption conversation,” Akins told Clarkson.
However, before long, adoption became something a little more than a subject that the couple simply talked talked about. The story began when Akins went on a trip to Uganda as part of her relationship with the charity 147 Million Orphans. Akins had been involved with the organization for some time, also making trips to Haiti and Honduras. It was an activity that her husband Rhett often tweeted about.
Indeed, Rhett felt compelled to get involved in the organization too, and in October 2016 the singer hosted a charity concert designed to raise funds for 147 Million Orphans. Together with Dierks Bentley and country music duo Florida Georgia Line, Rhett managed to bring in considerable funds — over a quarter of a million dollars, in fact — for the charity which helps bring medical supplies and basic living equipment to orphans in need.
Rhett was gushing in his praise for his wife and the time of the concert. “This event was spurred by Lauren’s heart and 147 Million Orphans’ heart and by how much they love those kids,” Rhett told People magazine. But adoption became a subject even closer to the couple’s heart when Akins met a little girl on her Uganda trip. That little girl was about to change the couple’s lives forever.
Akins told Kelly Clarkson all about that life-changing first moment with the child. “I was, like, so moved. I mean, the second I touched her, it was, like, electric,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my word. This little girl has just taken my heart.’ I was like, “Honey, we’ve gotta find her, her forever home. Like, I know that’s why I’m here is to get this girl to her home,” she continued.
Akins immediately contacted her husband, and he recalled the conversation the couple shared with Clarkson. “I don’t fully remember even saying it [to adopt],” Rhett said on the show. “It was, like, such a spiritual thing for me that it came out of my body. Then, literally two weeks after, we were having home assessments and talking to adoption agencies.” The couple officially adopted Willa Gray Akins in June 2017.
It was obviously an incredibly emotional journey for Rhett and Akins, but it seems that Clarkson herself was also experiencing her own emotional rollercoaster as she listened to the adoption tale. For the “Because of You” singer began to cry live on air, and stated that the couple had just “Oprahed her,” in reference to the famous host’s propensity for tears.
Clarkson was visibly moved by Rhett and Akin’s story. “I did my own makeup and this is not waterproof,” she said, referring to her tears. And Clarkson then revealed how she could empathize with the experience that the couple went through. “It’s so beautiful because I know that feeling,” the singer said.
Clarkson continued to express her connection with the tale. “As a mama, you touch them and you hug them. It doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not. We’re a blended family. You’re like, this is my purpose. It’s such a powerful thing,” the host told Rhett and Akins. But their own personal story wasn’t done there.
The story of the adoption took an amazing twist in February 2020 when Rhett made a surprising announcement on Instagram. “We are so happy to announce that we are pregnant and we are in the process of adopting a child from Africa! Safe to say life is about to get crazy!” the country artist declared.
After all of Rhett and Akin’s fertility worries, the couple had actually managed to become pregnant, naturally, while the adoption process for Willa Gray was ongoing. In fact, Lauren revealed that she was sure that her early signs of pregnancy were something else completely. “I was convinced it was food poisoning,” the philanthropist told People magazine.
Akins revealed a little more about the couple’s thinking at the time before she discovered she was pregnant. “When we began the adoption process, we said, ‘Let’s wait, let’s give this adopted child his or her time with us and then we’ll continue our family,’” Akins told People.
The couple then received surprising news. They were on vacation in December 2016 when Akins began feeling nauseas. Assuming that it was simply something she had eaten, Akins was nonetheless convinced by her husband to proceed with a pregnancy test. “I was 100 percent sure I was not pregnant,” Akins told People.
Rhett went off for a workout, leaving his wife in the company of their friends, Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard as well as his wife Hayley, who had joined their friend on the safari trip in Tanzania. Akins took the test, and couldn’t believe the result that was staring her in the face.
Rhett and Akins were pregnant. “I’m jumping up and down, Tyler’s giving me a bear hug and Hayley’s running out of their room and I’m like, ‘Thomas Rhett is not even here!’ Akins told People. The three made a beeline for the gym, where Rhett was finishing his workout, and revealed the incredible news.
Suffice to say, Rhett was left astonished. “I was in complete and utter shock!” the singer revealed to People. “No one is ever prepared for something like that. It is almost like we suddenly had twins,” he added. With the wheels in motion for the adoption of Willa Gray, the couple now faced the prospect of having two young children in their permanent care.
It was a life-changing period for the couple, who now found themselves in the position of expecting the birth of a child, and in the middle of the bureaucratic process that a formal adoption involves. Despite the logistics of it all, Akins was aware of how lucky she was. “We feel more than blessed,” she revealed to People at the time.
Of course, the practicalities of being pregnant and facing grueling trips to Africa became hard for Akins. The couple were hoping to bring the baby home from Uganda on one particular trip, but had to cancel at the last minute because of a delay and the fact Akins had a pregnancy checkup. It was a complicated time for all concerned.
Akins told People magazine about the events. “I probably could have pushed it, but I just didn’t want to think something could go wrong with my pregnancy,” Akins said. “It felt weird leaving one daughter and making sure the other one is okay. But I couldn’t do it another way,” she continued.
In the end, Akins’ mum and dad went to Uganda and brought Willa Gray home to Nashville for an emotional reunion with her new parents. Unsurprisingly, Akins, who was heavily pregnant at the time, described the moment as being like “Christmas Day.” Just a matter of months later, the couple were greeted by another new arrival, baby Ada James.
All the struggles that the couple had been through were worth it. “That first morning we were all home, we were all together in a room, both girls, both dogs, both of us and we were just chilling and I was like, ‘This is what we’ve been preparing for for over a year,’” Akins told People. “We finally got there. And look how beautiful our girls are. It brought me so much peace and happiness,” Akins recalled.
Since then the Rhett-Akins family has continued to grow. In 2019 the couple announced that Akins was pregnant, and in February 2020 they revealed the happy news that a new little girl had arrived into their lives. “Our early Valentine baby was born and her sisters couldn’t be happier to finally get to kiss her little face,” Akins said while announcing the arrival of Lennon Love Akins on Instagram.
The arrival of Lennon Love completes a trio of girls for Thomas Rhett and Lauren Akins. No doubt Kelly Clarkson was overjoyed with the news that the couple had welcomed yet another little girl. And no doubt we can look forward to another emotional episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show featuring the couple at some point in the future.