The Stunning Transformation Of Lainey Wilson

Lainey Wilson has taken the world of country music by storm over the past few years. Country fans know and love her for her Southern twang, her signature bell-bottom pants, and, most importantly, her authentic songwriting. Some of her most popular songs to date include "Heart Like a Truck," "Dirty Looks," and "Things a Man Oughta Know." The singer also recently set country music history with two consecutive years of the most nominations at the CMA Awards.

There seems to be no stopping this 31-year-old songstress. But while Wilson seems to be on top of the world right now, that wasn't always the case. Before she was known for dominating award shows, viral TikTok moments, or charting singles, Wilson was just a small town girl with a dream. She's changed and overcome a lot to get where she is today from her simple beginnings, setbacks, and winding road to stardom.

She came from humble beginnings

While she may now be an award-winning country star known for hit singles like "Watermelon Moonshine," Lainey Wilson didn't come from a glamorous background. In fact, her childhood was about as far from the celebrity life she lives now as you can imagine. Wilson grew up in Baskin, Louisiana, a town with a population of around 300 people, which Wilson quipped are "probably all my family" (via Taste of Country).

Growing up in Louisiana gave Wilson a true country background. While many stars may play up their homegrown roots to lend authenticity to their music, Wilson seems to be the real deal. She was raised on a small farm by her school teacher mother and farmer father. Growing up in there gave her a deep appreciation for country music from a young age. She spent her childhood listening to legends like Lee Ann Womack and Tim McGraw, having no idea they'd one day be her peers. Speaking about her small town to the Los Angeles Times, the singer said, "I didn't realize when I was little that country music was a genre. In that area — no stoplight, just a bunch of cornfields — it was just a way of life."

She worked as a Hannah Montana impersonator

Although she came from humble beginnings, Lainey Wilson's innate talent was obvious from a young age, and her parents and others took notice. She had her first paid performance when she was only nine years old. Granted, she made $20, and it was for the opening of a convenience store, but it's something she remembers to this day. "My daddy took me up there — no guitar, no microphone, no nothing — and I just sang a cappella," Wilson told the Los Angeles Times. At the same age, Wilson wrote her first lyrics and, just a few years later, began learning guitar.

It was clear she had a dream, but her path to getting there wasn't always as clear. Before she was recognized as a singer in her own right, Wilson worked as a Hannah Montana impersonator. She started impersonating Miley Cyrus' iconic Disney Channel character as a favor to a teacher but soon realized she could make money off the performance and started doing it at fairs and festivals. Wilson told Taste of Country that she also used her Hannah Montana gigs as an opportunity to hone her own performance. She would go on as herself before coming on in a wig to play the character. "Lainey Wilson would open for Hannah Montana," Wilson explained. "It taught me so much about stage performance and like getting out there and just doing the thing."

She lived in a trailer for years

A few years after graduating from high school, Lainey Wilson went where anyone who dreams of making it in country music goes: Nashville, Tennessee. She set up camp (literally) in a camper trailer parked outside of a recording studio in 2011. Living in the 20-foot trailer had its quirks. "The heater couldn't keep up in the winter," she told the Los Angeles Times, "so I was sleeping in coats and four pairs of socks." During the three years that she lived in the camper trailer, she used the Wi-Fi, water, and electricity from the building she parked behind. Though it wasn't ideal, she used that time to perform in bars, hone her craft, and do the best she could to make a name for herself.

Speaking to "Good Morning America" about that time, Wilson said, "There has been some dark days for me. I was very lonely. I didn't know hardly anybody in town. Tornadoes would roll through; the tornado sirens would be going off. The winters were cold." Although the work did eventually pay off, Wilson doesn't downplay the hardships she went through to get where she is. "When I look back, honestly, if I had known it was going to be this hard, I don't know if I would go and do it again."

She started as an independent artist

Although you may have only heard of Lainey Wilson or seen her career blowing up within the past few years, she's far from an overnight sensation. Wilson has had her eyes on the prize and has been putting the work in for more than a decade. While living in Nashville and sleeping in her trailer, she played many local shows and continued writing music. On the "Tamron Hall Show," Wilson referenced that people call Nashville "a 10-year town," meaning it takes most artists 10 years to find success there. And despite many setbacks, Wilson continued to chase that success. "I just knew that I was supposed to write country music. I knew I was supposed to tell stories, and dang it, I wasn't giving up," Wilson said.

Rather than waiting around to be discovered by a big music label, the singer decided to tell her stories herself and create music independently. Wilson released her first project, a self-titled album, in 2014. Just a couple of years later, she came out with her next independent album, "Tougher," which reached No. 44 on Billboard's Top Country Album chart, quite an impressive feat for an independent artist. "Tougher" got Wilson noticed and taken more seriously by the music business at large, helping her to make connections and get to where she is today.

Her career started to skyrocket in 2019

After all the hard work, Lainey Wilson's tough, can-do attitude really started to pay off. The warm reception to her independent music got her a contract with Sony Music Publishing and a record deal with Broken Bow Records. It seemed her star was finally on the rise. In 2019, she released her first EP under a major label, "Redneck Hollywood," which featured her hit song "Things a Man Oughta Know."

Although she was no longer working independently, Wilson was able to stay true to herself and the story she wanted to tell. "I feel like the whole project tells who I am and what I stand for; what I've been through, what I've overcome," the singer told Taste of Country about her 2019 release. Even the title of the EP does a good job of telling where Wilson comes from as well as where she plans to go.

The EP built a lot of buzz around Wilson as "Things a Man Oughta Know" charted at No. 3 in Billboard's Hot Country Songs. But as her success started to build, Wilson had no concerns about losing herself. As she told Taste of Country in 2019, "I've been in Nashville for nine years now and thankfully I've been able to be nothing but myself. If I had to be anything other than myself, it just wouldn't work."

She had her debut acting role in hit show 'Yellowstone'

Just a few years after becoming a big name in country music, Lainey Wilson decided to make her acting debut on the hit series "Yellowstone." Wilson joined the cast in the fifth season of the show in 2022, playing Abby. The role was written with Wilson in mind after her music was featured on the show. She told The New York Post that she met the series co-creator Taylor Sheridan, and the pair "bonded over horses" before she was offered the part.

Acting was never Wilson's dream, as she's always been focused on country music. As a guest on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Wilson described acting as outside her comfort zone and "a little scary." But she pushed herself to take the part anyway. "When this opportunity came up, I was like, 'This is gonna be an opportunity for me to share my music with the world, you dang right I'm gonna take it.'"

But Wilson almost quit the show before her big acting debut. When her father ended up in the ICU during filming, she wanted to stay by his side. It took advice from her father to stick with the series. "[H]e woke up just in time before I really made up my mind, and he said, 'I don't care if it was my funeral, if you got a job that needs to be done you'd better go do it and not come back until it's done,'" Wilson said on the "Dutton Rules" podcast.

She went viral on TikTok

Social media has changed the music landscape, so we now see many performers achieving almost overnight success after garnering millions of views on apps like TikTok. But for the most part, Lainey Wilson took the traditional route to country music fame, working in Nashville for over a decade to make her dreams a reality. However, she did get a boost in her career thanks to a viral TikTok moment in 2022.

Many TikTok users took notice of the country singer after a video of her performing "Things a Man Oughta Know" started popping up all over their For You Page. The video shows Wilson performing from a side angle and emphasizes the singer's impressive figure.

Wilson was at first taken aback by the viral reaction to the video. Speaking on Theo Von's podcast, she said, "I mean, I didn't know how to feel about it in the beginning. I thought it was just going to be this little tiny viral thing, and next thing I know, weeks later, I'm still seeing big old butts." After getting over the initial surprise, Wilson realized she could use the viral moment to her advantage. Just because many of the viewers were at first drawn to her physical appearance didn't mean she couldn't use it to capitalize on her music. "My booty introduced my music to a lot of folks and I'm okay with that," she told ET Canada.

She got to work with her ultimate inspiration, Dolly Parton

Lainey Wilson had multiple dreams come true in one night when she won 2023 ACM's Female Vocalist of the Year and was presented the award by none other than her idol, Dolly Parton. During her acceptance speech, the singer started, "I can't believe I just met Dolly Parton, first of all." Wilson has been an avid fan of Parton's for years, so meeting the "9 to 5" singer was a dream come true all on its own. The young country star even paid tribute to her idol with the song "WWDD" (an initialism for "what would Dolly do?) on her album "Sayin' What I'm Thinkin.'"

Beyond meeting Parton, Wilson also had the opportunity to work with her idol. The pair recently recorded a cover of "Mama He's Crazy" for The Judd's tribute album set to be released on October 27, 2023. "[I]t's just really cool to think that little Lainey was dreaming about being in the same room as Dolly Parton and now I'm getting to do music with her," Wilson gushed to "Access Daily." Wilson had a visibly emotional response to a video message from Parton. "When the people that you've looked up to for your entire life [and] when they start showing the support it makes me feel like, 'dang, I can really do this,'" she said.

She won 2023 ACM's Album of the Year and Best Female Vocalist

It's safe to say that Lainey Wilson's work has paid off, and now she's getting the recognition she deserves. Not only has she amassed many fans who love her songwriting, but she's also been recognized by the country music industry at large. Wilson reigned supreme at 2023's Academy of Country Music Awards, winning Album of the Year and Best Female Artist. It was an exciting night for the rising star and a show of how far she's come.

During her gracious acceptance speech for Female Artist of the Year, Wilson took the time to recognize the other artists in the category. "The Ladies in this category, I look up to y'all so much." She continued, "Everybody in this category didn't just wind up there by happenstance. They have worked their fingers to the bone. They have put their blood, sweat, and tears, and years into this."

Speaking to Forbes about her big wins, Wilson said she's grateful for the long and winding road she took to this point. Her years of struggle not only paid off but gave her the experience she needed to be the artist she is today. "I've [been] working on this my entire life, I've dedicated my life to country music and I've loved it so much and damn, it feels good that it's finally starting to love me back," she said.

She went through a dramatic weight loss journey

The "Heart Like A Truck" singer went on a health journey back in 2020. Hiring a personal trainer and adding more fruits and vegetables to her diet, she was more focused on overall health than achieving a specific body type or losing weight. But in 2023, the singer has lost 70 lbs., and fans are taking notice of the difference (via Life & Style). On August 26, she made an Instagram post featuring her in her signature cowboy hat, formfitting bell bottoms, and cream top. The comment section was quick to hype the singer up about her new figure, letting her know how "stunning" and "gorgeous" she looked. However, one fan did raise concerns about the transformation, saying, "You are literally working your backside off. I would be careful. Take it easy sometimes."

After her weight loss started to catch attention, Wilson took to her Instagram to make a PSA informing fans that she'd lost weight naturally due to her busy schedule and nightly performances. A weight loss gummy company attempted to claim that Wilson had used their product, but she set the record straight. "People will do whatever to make a dollar, even if it is lies. 'Cause ain't nobody sent me any gummies," the singer said. "And to be honest, me losing weight or gaining weight ain't got nothing to do with my music."

She's become one of country music's brightest stars

Coming from a tiny town and spending years working out of a trailer, Lainey Wilson is a true rags-to-riches story. She's now one of the biggest artists in country music, and her career seems to still be on the rise. In early September 2023, the nominees for the Country Music Association Awards were announced, with Wilson earning a whopping nine nominations. This marks the second year in a row that she's been the most nominated artist at the CMAs. She sets CMA history with this round of nominations as the only artist to get this many nominations for their first two appearances at the award ceremony. The most notable categories she's up for include Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year.

Wilson took to her Instagram to express her gratitude for the recognition. "Being nominated in each of these categories amongst my friends means the world to me. And the coveted Entertainer Of The Year category?! It's absolutely surreal," she wrote. "We bust our butts out there on the road every dang night to give y'all the best show possible and I have the time of my life doing it."