Born in 1986 in Albemarle, North Carolina, Kellie Pickler started singing as a child. She was raised by her grandparents after her mother abandoned her. In 2004, Pickler won a local beauty contest. She scored a spot on American Idol the following year. Appearing on the show's fifth season, Pickler came in sixth in this singing competition. She landed a record deal shortly after her time on American Idol ended in 2006, and released her first album, Small Town Girl, that same year. She has since released several popular country albums, including 2011's 100 Proof. In 2013, Pickler starred as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, winning the competition with partner Derek Hough.
Born on June 28, 1986, in Albemarle, North Carolina, country music star Kellie Pickler had a childhood filled with challenges and heartbreak. The daughter of Cynthia Malone and Clyde "Bo" Pickler, she was abandoned by her mother when she was a toddler. Her mother reportedly split with her father over his abusive behavior. Pickler was then left in the care of her paternal grandparents, Clyde Sr. and Faye Pickler, as her father went through a series of scrapes with the law.
In 1995, Pickler's mother came back into her life. She was awarded custody of Kellie, but the situation didn't work out well. Cynthia returned Kellie to her grandparents two years later. At the age of 15, Pickler suffered a tremendous loss: the death of her grandmother, with whom Pickler had first begun singing. "We would always sit together on the front-porch swing," she later told People magazine. "She had all these hymnals—with 'Amazing Grace' and 'Jesus Loves Me'—and I would sing to her on the swing."
During her high school years, Pickler was a member of her school's cheerleading squad. She also tried her hand at being a beauty contest contestant. In 2004, Pickler was named Miss Stanly County. She was working as a waitress before she landed her first big break.
'American Idol' to Country Star
In 2005, Pickler was selected to be a contestant on the fifth season of American Idol. She was up against several other talented unknowns, including Katherine McPhee, Chris Daughtry and Taylor Hicks. Pickler made it as far as the top six before being cut from the show. While she didn't win American Idol, she soon won the hearts of country music fans worldwide. Shortly after her run on Idol ended, Pickler signed with BNA Records, and her debut album, Small Town Girl, was released in 2006.
Featuring songs like "Red High Heels," Small Town Girl quickly reached the top of the country charts. Pickler helped write several songs on the album, including "I Wonder." She gave a dramatic performance of this tune about a lost mother at the Country Music Association Awards ceremony in November 2007, breaking into tears by the end of the song. She later acknowledged that she had been battling with depression at the time of the awards ceremony.
Pickler returned to the charts in 2008, seemingly even stronger than before, with Kellie Pickler. The album included her first Top 10 country hit, "Best Days of Your Life," which Pickler co-wrote with Taylor Swift.
Pickler also seemed to be thriving in her personal life around this time. In 2010, she became engaged to songwriter Kyle Jacobs. The pair tied the knot in a small, intimate ceremony in the Caribbean on January 1, 2011. Later that year, Pickler received much praise for her latest release, 100 Proof. The album topped the country charts and spawned several hits, including the title track and "Tough."
In late 2012, Pickler made headlines for shearing off her long, blonde locks. She shaved her head to show support for her best friend, Summer Miller, who was about to begin treatment for breast cancer. Pickler then revealed yet another side of herself, becoming a contestant on season 16 of Dancing with the Stars, where she and partner Derek Hough wowed the judges with their dance routines. She and Hough won the competition, beating out actress Zendaya Coleman, Olympic athlete Aly Raisman and football star Jacoby Jones in the finals in May 2013.
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