McKibbin, who reportedly died of a brain aneurysm, competed on Idol's first season in the summer of 2002, placing third behind runner-up Justin Guarini and winner Kelly Clarkson. "Nikki McKibbin was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing," tweeted Idol's Twitter account. "She was part of our American Idol family and will be truly missed. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family and friends during this difficult time." McKibbin wowed judges with performances of songs by Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, Bonnie Tyler, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks -- who sent her words of encouragement -- and, with the finale, Alannah Myles' “Black Velvet.” “@realnikkimckibbin was a fiery, funny lady who could sing the Hell out of a rock song with the same kind of ease and command she lovingly used to cut you with her twangy Southern wit,” Guarini wrote on Instagram. “Even in our ’20s when we were on American Idol together, I could tell that she’d had a challenging life, and not that many people had been kind to her along the way...but I’ll never forget the day that her idol, Stevie Nicks, sent her flowers with a card that said 'You are the Gypsy that I was...'. Nikki was on cloud nine and the joy and excitement that radiated from her was infectious. After the kind of emotional beating she took at the hands of the masses, she deserved to feel good about herself, even for a little while." Former Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe tweeted he had recently interviewed McKibbin for his podcast. "She revealed a number of issues on Idol Season One I knew nothing about," he tweeted. "My condolences go to her family and friends."