Kimberley Locke was born January 3 1978, in Hartsville, Tennessee. She was 24 years old when she auditioned successfully for the second season of American Idol. She made a hugely successful run on the show and ended up placing third. She released her debut album, One Love, in 2004. The album reached No. 16 on the Billboard charts, and the first single, "8th World Wonder," reached No. 49.
Singer. Born Kimberley Dawn Locke on January 3, 1978, in Hartsville, Tennessee, a small town not far from Nashville. Her father, Donald, was a truck driver, and her mother, Christine, worked at a distribution center for the Gap. Growing up in a biracial household in a mostly white neighborhood in Tennessee, Locke encountered bigotry at an early age. "One time my teacher seemed to think it was a problem that I colored all my people brown," Locke remembers. "My mom was like, 'Well, she lives in a house with brown people!'"
As a child, Locke loved music and singing. Her mother bought her sing-along records to the Get Along Gang, Rainbow Brite and the Care Bears. "I used to listen to them over and over and memorize the songs," Locke recalls. Her favorite song was Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. She remembers watching the movie over and over as she practiced belting out the song along with the film. While attending Gallatin High School, Locke sang in the school choir and teamed up with her three best friends to form a quartet called Shadz of U. She remembers, "We practiced three or four times a week. When Sunday came, we would sing in four or five different churches every Sunday. That's what we did. It was our life." Upon graduating from high school in 1997, Locke enrolled at nearby Belmont University in Nashville. While studying at Belmont, she also performed in two local Nashville bands, The Black Widows and The Imperials. Locke graduated from Belmont in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing.
After graduating from college, Locke appeared ready to set music aside and settle into a career outside the entertainment industry. She took a job as an administrative assistant at a Nashville company that licensed music for jukeboxes. Locke was 24 years old, and had just been accepted into the Nashville School of Law when she auditioned successfully for the second season of the Fox reality TV show American Idol. "When you're a small-town girl trying to make your dream come true, an all-expense-paid trip to L.A. is a dream," Locke said of her Idol audition. She made a hugely successful run on the show and ended up placing third (behind runner-up Clay Aiken and winner Ruben Studdard) when the competition concluded in May 2003.
Locke quickly capitalized on her American Idol success to launch her music career. She released her debut album, One Love, in 2004. The album reached No. 16 on the Billboard charts, and the first single, "8th World Wonder," reached No. 49 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles. Locke calls the release of her debut album one of the defining moments of her life. She said, "For the rest of my life and when I'm 80 years old, if I want to go to Amazon.com or itunes.com and order or download my album I can. It's a moment in the history of my life." In 2007, Locke released her second studio album, Based on a True Story, and later that year she came out with a holiday album titled Christmas that featured three No. 1 holiday singles.
In addition to singing, Locke has also enjoyed a successful modeling career. In 2005, she signed with Ford Models to model for Lane Bryant, a chain of clothing stores that focuses on fashionable plus-size women's clothing. Locke, a self-proclaimed "foodie" who owns a steakhouse in New York, says that plus-size modeling gave her an opportunity to embrace her voluptuous figure. She said, "God makes no mistakes and he did not make any with me by putting a few extra layers on my tushy and my thighs." Nevertheless, in 2007 Locke competed on VH1's celebrity weight loss reality TV show Celebrity Fit Club. She lost 27 pounds on the show, and landed a sponsorship with dieting company Jenny Craig. Locke also began dating her Celebrity Fit Club trainer, Harvey Walden, although the two have since split ways.
In 2010, Locke became the first artist to sign onto American Idol judge Randy Jackson's new record label, Dream Merchant 21. She released her first single on the new label, "Strobe Light," in April 2010. In addition to her work as a singer and model, Locke has worked actively with many HIV/AIDS-related charities. In November 2007, Locke received the Red Ribbon award in honor of her HIV/AIDS activism, and in March 2010 she was elected to the Board of Directors of One Heartland, a pediatric AIDS foundation.
While Locke intends to continue her music career, she now considers her job on the Board of Directors of One Heartland to be her most important work. Asked about the turning point in her life, Locke points to the first time she visited the youth camp run by One Heartland. "It changed my life, because I realized that whatever I'm going through, it's not bigger than what's going on at Camp Heartland," she said. Locke's new career goal is simply to help one person every day. She says, "I think that if everybody helped one person everyday, this world would be different."
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