The Stunning Transformation Of Elle King

Elle King was born with the kinds of industry connections many young entertainers would kill for. However, she always insisted on doing things her own way. While she now rules the country music charts, her road to success was a long one, and it all started with a conscious choice not to rely on her family connections to achieve success. "I really care about earning things myself," she told The Evening Standard. "I've played every empty bar, I played street corners until somebody heard me."

People certainly hear her now. King's album "Come Get Your Wife" spent six weeks on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, reaching #11. She's an awards show mainstay, a four-time Grammy nominee, and a performer who has ruled the airwaves with the likes of Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. She even once sang "Great Balls of Fire" on a burning piano, bringing some Lady Gaga-esque flair to the CMAs.

Along the way, King has encountered personal and professional highs and lows that have brought her to rock bottom as much as they've brought her to the upper echelons of Nashville. Read on for a look at the stunning transformation of Elle King.

She faced bullying as a child

The artist known as Elle King was born Tanner Elle Schneider in Los Angeles, though she spent most of her childhood in Ohio. She later told CMT that she lived in a working-class town, explaining, "You either work in factories, you join the military, or you get pregnant at 16, which everybody in my family did, by the way." King had a foot in another world, however; unlike most of the people she grew up with, she had a famous father. King is the daughter of actor and comedian Rob Schneider, best known for films like "The Hot Chick" and his collaborations with Adam Sandler, including "The Waterboy." 

Schneider wasn't in his daughter's life much when she was younger, and she occasionally struggled as a result. In a Facebook post about struggling with school, King later reflected, "I was tender hearted, ruled by emotions, and had a persistent need to fight authority." She also faced bullying for her weight, the other kids mocking her for how she looked just as much as they teased her about the fact that her dad wasn't around. "I was the chubby girl with a dad that didn't visit very often, and everybody made fun of me and were mean to me about it," she told People. "Growing up as somebody who was chubby, awkward, funny, has OCD and is weird and quirky and awkward but super sensitive, I had to really fight to be OK as myself."

She was in her dad's movie as a kid

Though Elle King and her father Rob Schneider had a complicated relationship, there were a few times when the busy actor tried to make it up to his daughter. He was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" between 1990 and 1994, and he brought King out to New York City to see her dad at work. In an appearance on "Watch What Happens Live," King recalled sitting in Chris Farley's lap and feeling "terrified" of the comic, and she also remembered seeing Phil Hartman punch her father in the face. "When I got in the cab, I said, 'Daddy, why'd that mean man hit you?'" she related. King joked, "I don't know if he deserved it or not."

In 1999, Schneider got her a role in his film "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," giving King her first taste of stardom. She played a precocious kid who shows up on Schneider's doorstep to sell "Girls of America" cookies, only to find that he's accidentally put a pornographic video on in the background. "You're a sick man, and I'm gonna tell!" King's character exclaims, providing one of the movie's most quotable lines.

When she was 11, King moved to New York City. She saw plays with her dad and began to realize that she wanted to be a performer, too. She told CMT, "I was just basically killing time until I could play music and move on with my life."

She started out in bars

As a teenager, Elle King began performing in bars around New York City. She decided to go by her mother's last name instead of using her famous father's, insisting that she wanted to make a life for herself independent of the fact that her dad was in "Little Nicky." She later explained to People, "I didn't want to be known as someone's kid. I wanted to be my own person." Still, she confessed that her upbringing probably gave her some advantages that other people didn't have. "I grew up around really funny, talented, creative people," she said. "Of course that's going to leave an imprint on me."

King first received press for her rocked-up cover of Khia's raunchy ode to female pleasure, "My Neck, My Back." She told Billboard that she covered the song to get attention, explaining, "I started singing that song and people kinda turned their head and said, 'What did she just say?' And it just became a thing."

She released the cover on an EP called, fittingly, "The Elle King EP." After years of gigging her way around the music scene, it appeared that things were finally looking up. She played SXSW in 2013, telling The Austin Chronicle that she was excited about where her career was headed. She said, "I'm really not good at anything else, so if I don't make it as a musician, I'll probably just end up living in the woods with a bunch of dogs."

2015's Ex's & Oh's gave Elle King her first smash

After years of toiling away in bars and clubs, Elle King finally broke into the mainstream with a 2015 single, the questionably-punctuated rock'n'roll banger "Ex's & Oh's." The single is about a string of lovers that King has shamelessly used and discarded, detailing the way they all seem to come back around again. The blues-rock song was a smash hit, reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Alternative Songs chart — making King only the second woman to do so since 1996, after Lorde's "Royals."

King told Billboard that the song was based on real experiences, admitting that she's a difficult person to date. She said she heard from several ex-boyfriends after the song was released, and they were none too happy about it. "Whatever," she said. "Those people pissed me off in the first place to make me want to write that song. All's fair in love and war."

Discussing the hunky, eye-candy-filled music video for "Ex's & Oh's" with PopBuzz, King crowed about the fact that she had become famous for a song with such risque subject matter. "I've actually ended up becoming successful for being a s**t," King joked. "It's really nice."

She received her first Grammy nominations

"Ex's & Oh's" wasn't just a commercial success; it was a critical smash, too, kicking off Elle King's career with positive reviews. The song also garnered King her first two Grammy nominations, for "Best Rock Song" and "Best Rock Performance." In a video interview to mark her recognition, King told The Recording Academy that she was particularly happy to be nominated in the rock 'n' roll genre. "Alright," she said. "I got a little street cred, finally. Cool!"

Unfortunately, things didn't go her way at the ceremony. "I had had a really hard, mildly traumatic experience at the Grammys," she told Classic Country 100.9. Not only did King lose both awards she was nominated for, but she suffered a wardrobe malfunction moments before her categories were announced. "Someone stepped on the back of my gown, and it ripped all the way up to my belly button," she recalled. "And we had to beg somebody to stitch me up right before they're about to announce who won the award."

Her career had gotten off to a great start, but King's Grammys experience would turn out to be the first in a series of professional and personal setbacks, mishaps that would come to define the next few years of her life.

Elle King's social media spats

A few months after losing both of the Grammys she was nominated for, Elle King angered fans with a surprising new look on Instagram. Alongside a selfie where she sported dreadlocks and a bindi, King wrote, "Dreads are back." Fans were quick to call King out for cultural appropriation. "If you're going to appropriate culture, do one at a time," one commenter wrote.

King didn't take too kindly to the idea that she'd done something offensive. In a follow-up post, she shared a throwback photo of herself as a child, sitting on a toilet. "In other news, here's me s***ing," she wrote. "What culture am I offending now?" Her followers were unhappy with the flippant response. "Damn, and I used to f*** wit yo music too Elle," one person replied. "Oh well." As Pajiba noted, King locked down her account amid the backlash.

A few weeks later, her Instagram was public again in time for yet another social media spat. This time, King got into it with a commenter who said she was too drunk to be enjoyable during an on-stage set at the Boston Calling music festival. "It's very sad and disheartening that our generation have become so comfortably judgmental," she wrote in an Instagram caption reflecting on the incident and her relationship to social media. "I am who I am. I will continue to be who I am, flaws and all."

2017 was a difficult year

While her career continued to rise, Elle King's personal life became quite rocky. She got engaged to a man named Andrew Ferguson mere days after meeting him. In early 2017, she wrote on Instagram, "Skipped out on my wedding. I married Rock&Roll instead." The following month, in a since-deleted Instagram post (per E! News), King revealed that she had indeed gotten married to Ferguson — and that they were already splitting up. "My heart is broken. My soul aches. I am lost," she wrote. A month after the announcement, it was confirmed that Ferguson had been arrested for allegedly choking his wife.

In 2018, King revealed that she battled substance abuse issues and experienced mental health problems caused by the traumatic breakup the previous year. "I thought that by doing drugs it would buy me time to feeling better," she told People. "And when that wasn't working, I just realized I was in this other cycle, and that I was creating it myself. And I realized I needed to cut all the darkness out of my life." While she dialed her partying days way back, King admitted that she still drank alcohol and used marijuana. "I have different fun now," she said. "It's not having fun out of pain."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

In 2018, she reconnected with her dad

When Elle King's career took off, she wasn't particularly on speaking terms with her father, Rob Schneider. In 2018, however — several years into being famous in her own right — King reconnected with her once-estranged dad. She told People that her father had two more daughters much younger than her, and she decided that she wanted to be in her half-sisters' lives. "So through that, me just kind of showing up and trying to be good for them, really made it easy because there were no bad motives," she said. "When it's about the kids, the bulls*** kind of goes away. I love him."

In a different interview with the same outlet a few years later, King added, "My father and I have a beautiful and really wonderful, great loving relationship with awesome boundaries." She frequently shouts out Schneider on social media, posting pictures of them hanging out on Instagram. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, King shared an announcement for her father's new comedy special. She revealed in the caption that she had been present at the taping just before the world shut down, and she reflected that she was glad to have one final, happy memory with her family. "if [society] never opens up again, and my last stage memory is being up there with my father, then I'll be super proud of that," she wrote.

Elle King is a mother now

In March 2021, Elle King announced on Instagram that she was entering a new phase of her life: motherhood. Alongside fiance Dan Tooker, King revealed that she was pregnant. She also explained that this pregnancy was particularly welcome, writing, "This miracle baby comes after two very big losses. It's a terrifying and extremely painful experience for everyone." She also noted that, while she had recently released a song called "Drunk," she was committed to remaining sober throughout her pregnancy. "What women go through on this journey make us nothing less than WARRIORS," she exclaimed.

She gave birth to her son, Lucky Levi Tooker, in September of that year. "We are all healthy and feeling so blessed!" she wrote on Instagram alongside an adorable snapshot of herself and her fiance holding their child. "Welcome to the world Lucky!"

After more than a year of raising a child, King reflected in an interview with People that the experience had fundamentally changed her. "Motherhood has made me a gentler person, a stronger person," she ruminated. "Someone who tries to be ... I'm still working on being less reactive, but I'm happy."

She switched to country music

While Elle King's early music was more blues-rock, she's now a full-on country star. She dipped her toe in the genre all the way back in 2016, appearing on Dierks Bentley's "Different For Girls." She also released "Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)" with country superstar Miranda Lambert, and both songs helped Nashville take notice. Unlike her appearance at the Grammys in 2016, she found country music awards shows far more welcoming. "The rowdier I was, the more people like, amped it up. They know how to get down," she told Classic Country 100.9. "And that's when I was like, 'Well, country's more rock 'n' roll than rock 'n' roll.'"

King released "Come Get Your Wife," her debut country album, in January 2023. Diving deep into the country world helped King reconnect with her roots in Ohio, as she made clear on "Ohio," the album's opening track. "It wasn't until I started making country music that it actually made me closer to my family in Ohio," she explained in an interview with Country Now. "The fans reminded me of my brother, my sister, and my uncle."

Though King was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Ohio, and lived in NYC, she's made the transition to full-time country star by making Nashville her new home. "I feel such an acceptance here," she told Nashville Lifestyles. "I feel like I have been given this freedom."

Elle King's fashion journey

Alongside her new choice of genre, Elle King admitted to Billboard that she's been on a fashion journey her whole career. She's a lover of big, bold colors, unusual fabrics, and standout hats, all things that made her a natural at dressing for country audiences. "I love old-school, outlaw country," she gushed. "Crazy appliqué stuff."

Reflecting further on her past red carpet looks, King admitted that some of her looks might have been a result of feeling uncomfortable in her body. Finding country fame alongside a star like Miranda Lambert only exacerbated her anxiety, as she was preoccupied with their different appearances. "There is no one size that you have to be to express yourself in clothes or with fashion," King eventually concluded. "You can be absolutely any size and find something that makes you feel beautiful. Me being bold with some of my outfits helped me find comfort in my body."

King's outing at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards was a particular standout, garnering a huge reaction from her fans thanks in part to the little black dress's cleavage-baring neckline. She shouted out designer Johnathan Kaye on Instagram, and in the comments section, fans went wild for the look. "I love your spirit!" one follower wrote. "Beautiful as always."

She ended 2022 with an injury

At the end of 2022, just as she was gearing up for her country music rebrand, Elle King suffered an injury. She canceled a number of shows, announcing on Twitter that she was dealing with health problems as the result of a fall. "I slipped down the stairs making a bottle in the middle of the night," she wrote. "Knocked my a** out, resulting in a concussion." King noted that she tried to play through the pain, but the stress of performing only exacerbated her symptoms. 

A month later, King spoke with ET about her scary symptoms in the wake of the accident. "It was a very intense thing," she said. "They said I got amnesia and got post-concussion syndrome." King was particularly appreciative of her new country music community, who she said rallied around her to make sure her son was okay while she recovered from the injury. Noting that healing took time, she explained that she was going through "a lot of stretches, and a lot of, like, quiet, downtime which has never been my strong suit."

Elle King might be single again

Elle King's country album "Come Get Your Wife" was, in part, about how deeply in love she was with fiance Dan Tooker, the father of their son Lucky. "I always wondered, 'What's my music going to sound like if I ever get happy?'" she told People shortly after the album's release. "And it's the best music I've ever made."

A few months after the album dropped, King performed onstage at the Stagecoach music festival. She turned heads in an electric green jacket, surprising fans when she turned around to reveal that the back of the jacket said "Single." As People noted, King emphatically pointed to the word on her back while she sang her breakout hit "Ex's & Oh's," perhaps suggesting that Tooker had joined that list of lovers she no longer had use for.

She refused to explain the jacket while speaking with ET. "All I can say is that me and my family are really happy and my kid is doing well and I feel great," King said, somewhat cryptically. She expressed appreciation for the support of her fans, noting that it's nice to have people rooting for her to find love. However, she said that she wanted to shift the conversation, wishing that people would talk instead about self-love. "I think maybe if we shifted and say rooting for love for myself, I think that's a nice little twist," she said.

Her dramatic weight loss turned heads

While Elle King was grateful for her pregnancy after two miscarriages, she nonetheless found that her mental health suffered after her giving birth. In August 2023, she revealed on Instagram that she had experienced a deep postpartum depression. "I also didn't even realize how intense postpartum depression is and was until I very slowly began to crawl out," she wrote. "I felt trapped in my body. I couldn't even sing."

In order to work on herself, King focused on her physical health. Embarking on a fitness journey, she focused on building healthier habits that could help take her mind off of her mental health. "My BRAIN functions better on the days I move my body," she reflected, noting that it's a journey with ups and downs. "Some days I count stretch marks. Some days I hug myself and say thank you to my body. Today is a kind day. I've been tiny, I've been huge, BUT RIGHT NOW IM HEALTHY."

Fans were surprised by the photos attached to the post, which showed off a slimmer figure. While King took care to insist that she was not using Ozempic or any similar weight-loss drugs, some fans felt bad that she even felt the need to prove herself. "know your journey is your own and there is no one timeline that suits all," one follower commented. "You're incredible and I'm so glad you're feeling better."