When I interviewed Kelly Clarkson, whose Christmassy album Wrapped in Red just entered the Billboard Charts at No. 3, she brought to the TIME offices quite an entourage, one of the biggest outside an African potentate. I had to ask the good folks in the reception area to provide 13 security passes. But unlike the politicians, her posse was very chill and more like a big family. (Also, no weapons.) In fact, several of them were about to become family; her fiancé Brandon Blackstock was with her and his dad, who’s her manager.
Clarkson was refreshingly candid and accessible both during the photo shoot and the interview, which you can read or watch on video here. She’s exactly like her public image, happy to talk to anyone from the photo assistant to the big scary interviewer (me).
After we finished our chat, she talked excitedly about her wedding plans, noting that she’d been learning to fly and was hoping to fly to the wedding. But she was a bit nervous: every romantic milestone she had with Brandon had been a bad day for the rest of the world. They went on their first date the day Whitney Houston died. The got engaged on Dec. 14, the day of the Sandy Hook shootings. (She got married on Oct. 20; the world survived.) On the way out of the Time & Life building she gave her husband-to-be an enthusiastic hug from behind in the elevator. “I can’t wait to be a wife!” she proclaimed. Her entourage smiled benignly; some of the Time Incers who happened to be sharing the elevator on their way out to get coffee were momentarily alarmed since it’s not exactly a PDA place, but then they figured out who it was and smiled benignly too.