Kellie Dawn Pickler (born June 28, 1986) is an American country music artist and television personality, first gaining fame as a contestant on the fifth season of American Idol (finished in sixth place) and later the winner of the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars.
Pickler was born at Stanly Memorial Hospital in Albemarle, North Carolina, to Cynthia Morton and Clyde "Bo" Raymond Pickler, Jr. Her mother left when Kellie was two years old, then returned and took custody of her for two years. After this, the court returned Kellie to her grandparents when she was 12 and they raised her to adulthood because her father was in and out of jail. Pickler says her paternal grandparents were the major influences in her life. Pickler graduated in 2004 from North Stanly High School in New London, North Carolina were she was a cheerleader and beauty queen. She sang "On the Side of Angels" by LeAnn Rimes at her high school graduation.
She worked as a waitress at a Sonic Drive-In franchise and, in 2005, she made an appearance on WSOC-TV's Gimme the Mike! Charlotte contest in which finished in second place. She participated in the Miss America circuit and won the "Miss Stanly County" pageant at age 17 and subsequently competed for Miss North Carolina 2004.
The 19-year-old Pickler auditioned for American Idol in the fall of 2005 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She sang both Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing". The judges sent her to Hollywood. Pickler advanced through the semi-final rounds in February 2006.
Pickler was among judge Simon Cowell's favorites, predicting Pickler would be in the final three, and said he preferred her over the previous season's winner, Carrie Underwood. Recognized for her "quirky" personality and Southern charm, Pickler gained attention on the show by saying that she had hardly ever performed before real audiences, and by mispronouncing words. She was eliminated on April 26, 2006.
Post Idol CareerEdit
After her elimination, Pickler pursued her recording aspirations in Nashville, Tennessee, shortly thereafter. On July 17, 2006, she signed a record deal with 19 Recordings/BNA Records. She was part of the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2006, performing for three months in various cities. During that period, Pickler worked on her album in collaboration with top industry experts in different cities wherever the tour took her.
The work resulted in her first single, "Red High Heels", debuted on September 13, 2006, with the music video a month later. It received a nomination for the CMT Video Awards for "Breakthrough Video of the Year". At the end of October, her debut album, Small Town Girl, was released on October 31, 2006 topping Billboard's Top Country Albums and landed at number nine on the Billboard 200 selling over 79,000 copies in its first week, making Pickler the highest-selling first-week sales for a new artist in 2006.
On January 18, 2007, Pickler co-hosted The View and was presented with a gold record by Rosie O'Donnell, the first her career. Pickler was nominated for "Top New Female Vocalist" for the 42nd Academy of Country Music Awards. She was also part of Brad Paisley's "Bonfires & Amplifiers" concert tour from April 2007 through October as one of the opening acts. The tour was booked in at least 37 cities across North America including a couple of stops in Canada. Pickler also appeared in Paisley's music video "Online" during that time as well. In September 2007, Pickler released a version of "Santa Baby" for a Christmas country compilation. A month later, at the ASCAP Awards in Nashville, Pickler received a songwriter award for co-writing "Red High Heels". She performed "I Wonder", at the 2007 CMA Awards, which is a personal song about her absent relationship with her mother, Cynthia Morton. During the performance, she was visibly overcome with emotion and struggled to even finish the song before bursting into tears. The performance received a standing ovation. She was also nominated for the Horizon Award. The performance led her to receive 3 CMT awards the following April.
Pickler returned to the studio to record her second studio album for 19 Recordings/BNA Records. She performed the debut single, "Don't You Know You're Beautiful" at the ACM Awards on May 18, 2008 and received a good response from the audience. The single was released to radio in June 2008 and was a Top 25 hit for Pickler, peaking eventually at number twenty-one. Her second album, Kellie Pickler, was released on September 30, 2008 and debuted at the top of the country chart matched the debuting spots of her first album.
On November 12, 2008, Pickler performed the second single from her album Best Days of Your Life at the CMA Awards. She was also nominated for "New Artist Of The Year" for the second year in a row, but lost. "Best Days of Your Life" made its radio debut in November 2008, and debuted at number 56. The song climbed very slowly up the chart, but ended up becoming Pickler's first Top 10 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart. After nearly 40 weeks on the chart, the song peaked at number nine in August 2009. A music video was made by Roman White, featuring Taylor Swift, who co-wrote and sang background harmony vocals on the song.
Pickler was nominated for "Female Video Of The Year" at the 2009 CMT Music Awards for "Don't You Know You're Beautiful", losing to Swift. She also presented the award for "USA Weekend Breakthrough Video Of The Year" with Idol judge Randy Jackson. Pickler accompanied Swift on the first leg of her Fearless Tour 2009. In June, she launched her first ever headline concert tour in promotion of her self-titled album. On October 8, it was announced that Pickler would be part of the second leg of Fearless Tour. On October 26, Pickler won the title of Country Weekly's poll of most beautiful woman in country music for the second year in a row with Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood placing second and third respectively.
Pickler's third album was produced by Frank Liddell, known for producing country artist Miranda Lambert's albums. "Tough" was released on June 13, 2011 as the lead-off single to Pickler's third album, 100 Proof, which was released on January 24, 2012 debuting at number seven on the Billboard 200 and at number two on the Top Country Albums chart. "Tough" reached a peak of number 30 on the Hot Country Songs chart, while the album's title track, which was released as the second single in April 2012, peaked at number 50 on the same chart.
On June 27, 2012, ABC News Radio reported that Pickler parted ways with Sony Nashville. In October, CMT reported Pickler had signed with the independent record label Black River Entertainment.
Dancing with the StarsEdit
Pickler competed in the sixteenth season of the U.S. version of Dancing with the Stars, partnering with Derek Hough, which began on March 18, 2013. Amongst the other competitors were fellow country artist Wynonna Judd, gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, and actress-singer Zendaya. Pickler & Hough won the competition in the tightest final the show's history over the pairs of Zendaya & Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Raisman & Mark Ballas on May 21.
Hoping to capitalize on her Dancing succes Pickler's first single with her new label, "Someone Somewhere Tonight," was released on May 14, 2013 reaching number 49 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in July 2013. "Little Bit Gypsy" was released on August 19, 2013 as the second single from her forthcoming fourth studio album. Pickler's, The Woman I Am, was released on November 11, 2013 with Pickler wrote the title track with her husband, songwriter Kyle Jacobs. She performed "Little Bit Gypsy" on the November 25, 2013 episode of Dancing with the Stars seventeenth season.
Return to Reality TelevisionEdit
In 2015, it was announced that Pickler and Jacobs will star in a 13 episode reality show for CMT entitled I Love Kellie Pickler. The show premiered on November 5, 2015.
Pickler's relationship with both her parents has been less than ideal, given that both have been in and out of jail for various crimes during her early life. After two years of physical and mental abuse Pickler was removed from her mother's care and put in her paternal grandparent's care in 1997, Pickler has not seen her mother since. Her father was released from prison in Florida a week after her elimination from American Idol.
Pickler has formed numerous friendship through her various careers and television competitions. She is close friends to fellow Idol alum Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, both of whom she can collaborated on several endeavors. Pickler formed a close friendship with Katharine McPhee while roommates during their season of American Idol, she was a bridesmaid at McPhee's wedding in 2008. But Pickler's best friend is Summer Miller, who Pickler met when they were teen pageant hopefuls. When Miller began chemotherapy after breast surgery, Pickler shaved her head in support.
Pickler philanthopic work has centered around major life events that have effected her. She is one of the biggest names in support of organizations helping orphaned and abandoned children due to her own childhood. Since shaving her head in support of her friend Summer Miller, Pickler has given her time and effort to raise money for cancer research of all types.
On January 1, 2011, Pickler married songwriter Kyle Jacobs, eloping in a "small, intimate ceremony on a private island in the Caribbean". The two had been dating for two and a half years before Jacobs proposed in the previous June.
During her time in high school, Pickler weighed barely 200 pounds and was only around 250 pounds when she first auditioned for American Idol. Once Pickler arrived in Hollywood, her weigh slowly rose during her time on the show until she weighed approximately 315 pounds at the time of her elimination. Over the years, Picker's weight steadily increased to just over 400 pounds at the time of her engagement in June 2010. Leading up to her wedding, Pickler piled on over a 100 pounds resulting in numerous alterations to her wedding gown. Since her wedding, Pickler's weight essentially plateaued as she barely gained 5 pounds a year since. On the debut episode of her reality show, I Love Kellie Pickler, it was revealed she weighs 538 pounds.