Kellie Pickler: 25 Facts About The American Idol Contestant Turned Country Star

The following article mentions suicide.

You have likely heard of Kellie Pickler, even if you are not a fan of country music. The star was born on June 28, 1986, and she got her start in beauty pageants before rising to worldwide fame on the 5th season of "American Idol." Although she didn't win the competition, coming in 6th place, her talent captivated the world. Pickler's life hasn't been the same since she made her reality TV debut. 

Pickler got her start in show business at a young age and has had a vibrant career ever since her epic "American Idol" audition. In spite of her astronomical success, though, life hasn't always been happy for Pickler. The singer faced quite a few hurdles in her journey to stardom, and the fact that she overcame them is proof that Pickler is one extraordinary woman. Here's more about the inspiring journey of country music sensation Kellie Pickler. 

How Kellie Pickler really felt about her American Idol experience

While she didn't win "American Idol," the experience was still a positive one for Kellie Pickler. Not only did it help her launch her career, but it was also a lot of fun. Pickler was just 19 years old and had never even been on an airplane when she appeared on the show. She may have been young, but Pickler quickly proved her talent and even won over the notoriously picky judge Simon Cowell. Of her time, she told Spotlight Central, "I just think it went really fast! ... But it was an incredible experience."

If Pickler has one regret about her time on "American Idol," it's that she didn't keep a journal when she was on the show. "I wish I had written so many things down and kept notes," she said. With or without notes, the show was a transformative experience for Pickler. "[I]t completely changed my life for the better. It led me to Nashville, and it helped my dreams to become a reality."

The country star had a difficult childhood

Kellie Pickler's life seems charmed when you only see her meteoric rise. Before "American Idol" brought her fame, though, things were quite difficult for the star. Rolling Stone noted that Pickler's mom left her when the future singer was 2 years old to escape from an abusive relationship. Her father was in and out of prison, leaving Pickler to be raised by her grandparents.

Pickler told The Boot that she grew up visiting her father, who struggled with drug and alcohol misuse, in prison. The experience took a toll on the future music star, although it would be years before she realized just how deeply she had been impacted by her father's incarceration. "Looking at it now, as an adult, that's not normal," she said. "That's not the way it's supposed to be."

Pickler added that much of the responsibility of parenting her younger siblings fell on her shoulders. "I didn't have time to study," she said. "I was too busy being a parent. ... I had to learn how to almost be a homemaker in a way."

Kellie Pickler was afraid of not being taken seriously after becoming a reality star

Because Kellie Pickler rose to fame on reality TV, she faced the risk of not being taken seriously in the wider entertainment industry. (After all, many "American Idol" stars didn't find the fame and fortune they expected after they competed on the series.) When asked by Oregon Live if she was worried that people would look down on her for being on reality TV, Pickler said that there will always be people trying to bring others down. "Everyone pays their dues in different ways," she said.

No one can say that Pickler hasn't paid her dues many times over. As she once told Parade, "'[American] Idol' was the rocket that launched my career, and I've tried to surround myself with good people of integrity and I work hard." While most of the people who competed on her season of "American Idol" have been forgotten, Pickler has thrived. "I've been blessed to be a part of things that I'm passionate about and have my dreams become reality," she said.

Kellie Pickler has branched out into acting

Kellie Pickler may have risen to fame as a talented singer, but her talents go far beyond music. Pickler is also a talented actress with several credits on her resume, beginning with a guest appearance on "90210" in 2011. Since then, she's gone on to star in made-for-TV movies, building a reputation as a Hallmark star with movies like the 2018 film "Christmas at Graceland," one of Hallmark Channel's best holiday movies. "I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the Hallmark family," Pickler told Parade.

"Christmas at Graceland" became Hallmark's most-viewed Christmas film that year and led her to star in two other Hallmark films: "Wedding at Graceland" and "The Mistletoe Secret." In spite of her acting success and her obvious talent, Pickler didn't fully adjust to being a made-for-TV movie star right away. In 2019, she told Good Housekeeping that she still feels "new to the whole acting thing." 

Cutting out toxic people helped Kellie Pickler get to the top

Thanks to her "American Idol" appearance, Kellie Pickler became pretty famous at a very young age. While this was great news for her career and Pickler has made the most of her success, things could have very easily gone in the opposite direction. Fortunately, Pickler has managed to stay grounded and hasn't succumbed to the vices that so often come with fame. According to the singer, her inner circle is one of the big reasons why. As she told The Press-Enterprise"After 'Idol,' I surrounded myself with good people."

In fact, this strategy worked so well for Pickler that she passes it along to anyone who might listen. As she told the outlet, "The best advice I can give anyone pursuing a life in the entertainment industry, or just pursuing anything in life is to surround yourself in good company and people that are better than you." This may mean letting go of some people, but, if Pickler's example is anything to go by, it's worth it. "You have got to cut toxic and negative people out of your life," she said.

Kellie Pickler is a Dancing With the Stars champion

Kellie Pickler may not have won "American Idol," but she did dominate "Dancing With the Stars" in 2013, coming away with the coveted Mirrorball Trophy. The Boot noted that she danced her way to the win with her partner, Derek Hough, getting perfect scores on their three final dances. After her victory, Pickler told Us Weekly, "I'm overwhelmed with joy." The singer didn't expect to make it to the finals, let alone win the whole thing. "I was shocked to have made it this far," she said. 

Pickler may not have been known for her dance moves before "Dancing With the Stars," but her years of cheerleading sure came in handy when it was time to hit the ballroom floor. Pickler told Country Weekly (via The Boot), "It's been quite some time, and cheerleading is a lot different than ballroom dancing. But the thing that has helped me the most, my greatest strength, is my flexibility."

This is what Kellie Pickler loved most about her talk show

Kellie Pickler showed off yet another one of her talents on her talk show "Pickler & Ben." The series premiered in 2017 and was co-hosted with Ben Aaron. The show was canceled after only two seasons, much to Pickler's disappointment, who, along with her co-host, really enjoyed the gig — and not just because it was a steady paycheck. "I think we both fell in love with the show for the same reasons," she told Taste of Country. "It's positive, it's fun, it's uplifting. It's one hour of just pure joy and laughter."

"Pickler & Ben" may have been short-lived, but the talk show was proof of just how diverse Pickler's talents are. The talk show wasn't her first television show, though. Pickler landed her own reality series, "I Love Kellie Pickler," in 2015. "This show is about laughter and love," she told Broadway World). "We just want to be a bright light and make people laugh and feel good."

Her husband died in 2023

On February 17, 2023, Kellie Pickler's husband, Kyle Jacobs, died by suicide at the age of 49. Following Jacobs' death, Pickler recoiled from the spotlight, evidently closing herself off from the world to process her grief. After several months of agonizing silence, Pickler spoke out in August of 2023.

Pickler soon released a heartbreaking statement about her husband's death. "One of the most beautiful lessons my husband taught me was in a moment of a crisis, if you don't know what to do, 'do nothing, just be still,'" she shared with People. "I have chosen to heed his advice." Pickler also addressed the outpouring of love she'd received in response to Jacobs' death. "Thank you to my family, friends, and supporters, for the countless letters, calls, and messages that you have sent my way," the singer said. "It has truly touched my soul and it's helping me get through the darkest time in my life. As many of you have told me, you are all in my prayers."

Before Jacobs' tragic death, Pickler opened up about the special bond that the couple shared. "He makes me feel so, so great about myself," Pickler told The Boot in 2010. "I feel so beautiful when I'm with him. He always tells me he likes me better with no makeup on and sweatpants. He makes me feel the most beautiful when I'm with him."

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She loved working with her husband

While some people might want space from their partners and to separate their work life and their home life, Kellie Pickler was perfectly happy to combine them. In fact, she truly loved working with her husband, producer and songwriter Kyle Jacobs, before his tragic passing in 2023. The singer told People that they didn't waste any time in collaborating, working on their very first song together the day after they met. "He is so good at what he does," said Pickler.

Pickler told Spotlight Central that she admired her husband, who plays many instruments, and said that working with him was "wonderful" because "nobody knows me better."

Music wasn't just something that they did together to make a living, either; it was something that they both loved and enjoyed sharing together. Pickler said that "it's really neat that we are able to share the same passion for music and for putting our lives into songs," adding that Jacobs was her "favorite person to write with."

She was rocked by her grandmother's death

Another devastating time in Kellie Pickler's life came in 2002, when her grandmother, Faye Pickler, died at age 66. Faye died just one day after receiving her lung cancer diagnosis. This loss hit hard. As previously noted, Kellie's grandparents took care of her when she was a child and her parents were going through their own struggles. Of her grandmother, Kellie told ABC News, "she's the one that raised me and the woman I called mom."

The sudden loss left Kellie reeling and would impact the rest of her life. In 2014, she partnered with Lung Force, a CVS-sponsored initiative which raises awareness and money for lung cancer research, noting the cause is "near and dear to my heart."  What's more, she  "I was shocked to find out, you don't even have to be a smoker to be diagnosed with lung cancer," said the singer.

Kellie Pickler never wanted to be a pop singer

While many singers dream of crossover success in both pop and country, Kellie Pickler's heart has always been with country music. In an interview with CNN, the singer revealed that she never had any desire to be a pop singer, in spite of the pop-country sound of her early career. Instead, Pickler grew up idolizing legendary country artists like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette. "I don't know if it was the fact that their music felt so real and all of their songs came from a real place in their life," she said. "I feel like we were all raised the same."

Her third album, "100 Proof," was released in 2012 and followed in the tradition of those iconic women. "I've always wanted to make records like this," Pickler admitted, although she added that she understood why studio executives steered her towards a more pop sound in the beginning as she was a relative unknown and "they have a formula and have to play certain things safe." However, she noted, "I never wanted to be a pop singer."

Kellie Pickler is a total tomboy

Kellie Pickler certainly transformed into a superstar after audiences on "American Idol" with her sweet Southern belle attitude, but at the end of the day, she's still a bit of tomboy. As she quipped to IGN, "I'm like a boy sometimes If you've seen any of my baby pictures, my knees are all banged up, I have scratches and bug bites and my feet were all banged up because I'd run around with no shoes on."

Pickler added that while she's always been a low-maintenance person who isn't afraid of a little dirt, she does not mind getting gussied up from time to time. And when it's time to dress up for an event or a night out, she commits. "Either you're gonna dress up and you're goin' out to kill or you're gonna look like a bum," she said. "I don't like the middle ground."

It's all about choices, and Pickler is determined to do things her way and stay true to who she is. "My grandmother always told me to be a lady, but sometimes I don't act like one," she said. "I'm a lady when I need to be."

Kellie Pickler doesn't plan her writing sessions

While some writers may have a set plan to their writing day or, at the very least, have a plan when it comes to tackling a writing project, Kellie Pickler just goes with the flow. Whenever the inspiration strikes her, she has her pen at the ready. She is not the type to map what she's going to work on, either. "I just write about whatever I feel like that day," Pickler told CNN. "I don't ever sit down with a plan."

One notable example of this is the song "Best Days of Your Life," which she co-wrote with Taylor Swift when they were on tour with Brad Paisley. The song came about with no planning whatsoever. The pair started writing when Pickler had some personal drama to work through. "I stormed on our bus and I was upset about a boy and we just ended up writing about it," she said. Everything unfolded from there. "No intentions of writing, just talking and we started playing," said Pickler. "Never thought anyone would hear it."

Kellie Pickler considers herself to be an adventurous person

Kellie Pickler is always up for a challenge and considers herself to be quite the adventurous person. The singer loves the outdoors, which was something she shared with her late husband. Once, the singer told OK! magazine that they were particularly fond of hiking and canoeing.

While hiking and canoeing may seem rather tame, Pickler has gotten pretty wild in her past. She confessed to USA Today that she once snuck into the North Carolina State Fair with some friends with a mission: "I don't know why, but we were wanting to race down the big slides they have." They squeezed through the fence in the middle of the night while drunk.

Pickler admitted that the best way to get her to do something is to dare her. "If there's a plane, and you say 'jump,' if I've got a parachute, I'll do it," she said. "My pride gets the best of me when someone says, 'You won't do it.'"

Becoming a mom isn't a priority for Kellie Pickler

Up until her husband's death, Kellie Pickler had been happily married since 2011. Throughout the course of their marriage, they remained perfectly content on their own, and didn't feel any sort of rush to have kids. 

In 2014, Pickler explained in an interview with ABC News that she and her husband enjoyed just being together without adding kids into the mix. What's more, her life on the road kept her plenty busy. "I have a band, so that's kind of like having kids," she quipped to the outlet. "I feel like we are newlyweds, we have so much to do and enjoy just the two of us."

Even years later, things didn't change too much. While Pickler moved on from "parenting" her band to becoming a pet parent. As she told Us Weekly in 2019, the couple was proudly raising their new puppies. "We're dog parents for now," she said. At the time, she and her husband still weren't thinking about having kids in the near future.

Kellie Pickler has a bit of a potty mouth

Even though Kellie Pickler seems sweet (if a little bit sassy), she's not quite as prim and proper as some may believe. Not only is she a tomboy, but she also has something of a potty mouth — and even has a favorite swear word, although you may not be able to tell from her clean-cut music. 

Pickler isn't proud of it, but she's got quite a fondness for dropping f-bombs. She admitted to USA Today in 2013 that her favorite swear word is a doozy, but she said she can't rein it in. "It's an awful cuss word," she said. "And I'm not proud of it at all, because I don't want people to say, 'That's my favorite cuss word, too!' It's my go-to word, and it's awful, because it's so unladylike." Pickler added that even her husband teased her about using the word, pointing out her "sailor mouth."

Kellie Pickler was a bridesmaid at Katharine McPhee's wedding

Kellie Pickler and fellow "American Idol" alum Katharine McPhee bonded when they both competed on Season 5 of the reality show, on which McPhee finished as runner-up. Pickler was even a bridesmaid at McPhee's 2007 wedding to her first husband, Nick Cokas. "I was so honored when Katharine asked me to be a bridesmaid," Pickler told People. "[The wedding] was like a fairy tale. I didn't want it to end." Pickler was at McPhee's side when the marriage ended, too, going on vacation with her friend after she filed for divorce. 

While McPhee wasn't a bridesmaid at Pickler's 2011 nuptials, there was a good reason for it: Pickler eloped. McPhee was initially slated to stand up for her friend at her wedding, though, telling Parade she'd even gone for a dress fitting before Pickler opted out of the big ceremony. "I was really mad!" she said, adding, "I heard about [the elopement] on Twitter! ... I was bummed."

She voiced a VeggieTales character

Kellie Pickler turned her powerhouse vocals to voice acting in 2014 when she joined the cast of the "VeggieTales" film "Beauty and the Beet." Pickler voiced a sweet potato named Mirabelle, the lead singer of a band called The VeggieTones, and sang several songs for the film. Pickler was surprised to be tapped for the film, telling People, "You don't expect your management to call and say, 'We have an opportunity for you to be a sweet potato."

Pickler was excited to land the role, although she admitted to The Tennessean that she thought she would be cast as something that reflected her Southern roots a bit better. Still, she appreciated the opportunity to show off her range, saying, "It's really fun to break away from country and do something different."

Pickler channeled her late grandmother, Faye Pickler, to nail the sweet potato's equally sweet character. "She was a little spitfire and so is Mirabelle," Pickler told USA Today of the woman who raised her. "She has such a beautiful and forgiving heart where she will let things go."

Kellie Pickler takes a quote from Dolly Parton to heart

Kellie Pickler's life has changed a lot since her "American Idol" days, but she has not let the fame go to her head; the glitz and glam hasn't taken over her world. In an interview with E! News, she admitted that she is a bit of a homebody who enjoys the simpler things in life. "I love gardening. My friends call me the fifth unofficial Golden Girl," she said. "I love puzzles. I love good conversations. I love to sit on the front porch in my rocking chair. I just like to be in good company."

While Pickler loves her career, she's got a healthy work/life balance, and it's her roles in her family and her community that are more important to her. "I hate the word celebrity," she said. "I clock out of that world as quick as possible and I keep my feet on solid ground in the real world."

Pickler's down-to-earth attitude was inspired by country legend Dolly Parton. In an interview with Sounds Like Nashville, Pickler said, "Everybody's gotta make a living. But like the Dolly quote, 'Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.' There's a difference, you know?"

Kellie Pickler shaved her head for cancer awareness

In 2012, Kellie Pickler traded her blonde tresses for a buzz cut — and fans were in awe when the singer revealed the heartwarming story behind her new 'do. Turns out, Pickler's longtime best friend, Summer Holt Miller, had developed breast cancer at age 35. When Miller realized that chemotherapy was inevitable, she dreaded the thought of losing her hair. That's when Pickler went into ride-or-die mode and decided to shave her head in support of Miller. In a video shared by "Good Morning America," the country star sat face to face with her bestie while both women got their hair sheared off. Pickler's husband, Kyle Jacobs, also shaved his head to show solidarity with Miller. 

Pickler saw her bold new haircut as a way to promote the importance of breast cancer screenings. "Cancer does not discriminate," Pickler said in a statement to ABC News. Miller agreed, adding, "If this compels even one person to change their mentality toward waiting until the age of 40 for their mammogram, then it will be worth it." Looking back, Pickler told Redbook that she loved shaving her head. "In the South they say, 'The higher the hair, the closer to heaven,' but the opposite was true in my case," said the country diva. "I got rid of my hair and never felt stronger as a person, as a singer, and as a sister to Summer." 

She has Broadway aspirations

The world knows that Kellie Pickler can sing, act, and dance, so starring in a musical seems like a logical next step. Pickler told Sounds Like Nashville in 2021 that she would love to be on Broadway, and that some discussions were in the works. As of this writing, it seems she's still waiting for that dream to become a reality.

Still, we're willing to bet that Pickler will hit the Broadway stage at some point in her career. She even has a role in mind: fellow country crooner Tammy Wynette. "I want them to do like a Tammy Wynette Broadway musical!" she once told Country Weekly (via Playbill). "I know Dolly Parton has her Broadway shows and I think if anybody lived a country song, it's Tammy."

In the same interview, she said that her "Dancing With the Stars" partner, Derek Hough, said he could see her playing Roxie in "Chicago," and Pickler seemed keen to tackle the role. "That would be amazing!" she said. "I've watched that move a million times. I know it by heart."

Kellie Pickler became a radio host

Kellie Pickler is a woman who wears many hats, and it is only fitting since she has so many talents. The country singer showed her natural skill for television hosting with "Pickler & Ben," and brought her hosting chops to the radio airwaves in 2022 when she became a host on the SiriusXM country station "The Highway." Pickler was put in the midday slot, hosting the show from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern on weekdays. 

"I am so excited to join the SiriusXM family as a host on The Highway," she said in a statement (via Sounds Like Nashville). "This is such a fun and amazing opportunity to really connect with country music fans across North America. I'm looking forward to sharing some of my current favorite songs and artists, along with chatting with some very special guests!" In 2023, Pickler's SiriusXM show ended.

She isn't bothered by critics

Misogyny is nothing new in the music industry, and country music is no exception. Even megastars like Shania Twain and Dolly Parton have called out gender bias in this male-dominated genre. In 2015, a radio consultant named Keith Hill sparked controversy when he told Country Aircheck that female artists should have significantly less radio play than male artists. Hill went on to claim he had data proving that country music fans prefer male artists. "Trust me," he said, "I play great female records and we've got some right now; they're just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females." Naturally, Hill's comments struck a nerve, especially with female country singers who didn't appreciate being compared to a salad ingredient. The incident came to be known as "Tomatogate." 

When asked for her thoughts on "Tomatogate," Kellie Pickler made it clear that the criticism didn't bother her. "There are bigger issues going on in the world than being called a tomato," the singer told Rolling Stone. "I've been called worse!" Rather than adding fuel to the "Tomatogate" fire, Pickler said she was counting her blessings. "If our biggest thing is fighting to get on the radio, then that's a good problem to have, considering what other women are dealing with around the world, who would do anything to trade problems with women in country music." 

She's passionate about supporting the troops

Kellie Pickler is all about supporting members of the U.S. armed forces. In 2007, the country star became an ambassador with the non-profit United Service Organization (USO), where she traveled all over the world to spend time with deployed military personnel. Her visits featured live performances, meet-and-greets, and mealtime with the troops. "It feels good to be a part of something that matters," Pickler told USO. "It feels good to give back. It is a blessing to be able to partake on these tours ... it's amazing to go in there and greet service members and let them know that we don't take what they do for granted and wish them well." The singer chronicled her USO visits on social media. In one Instagram post, Pickler mused about traveling 20,000 miles and traversing eight time zones over the course of one USO tour.

In 2012, Pickler stripped down for a special "Salute to the Military" issue of Maxim. The photo spread featured Pickler wearing a pin-up-inspired bikini and cozying up with some hunky servicemen. It was a proud moment for the country superstar. "I've always had a great deal of respect for anyone who serves our country," she told Maxim. "It really does take someone special to sacrifice everything. I don't mean just their lives, either. There are men who are sacrificing the chance to hold their newborn baby!" 

Her entertainment career has paid off big time

Since making a name for herself on "American Idol," Kellie Pickler has enjoyed an eclectic multi-media career. From music to television, she's not afraid to branch out — and in doing so, she's earned a fortune. Pickler's debut album, "Small Town Girl," sold a whopping 79,000 copies within one week of its release. With a career total of more than two million records sold, Pickler is one of the best-selling "American Idol" artists in the show's history. 

Additionally, the country crooner earned payouts from various movie and television roles,including her aforementioned reality TV gig. Her net worth reportedly falls somewhere in the ballpark of $4 million. Not too shabby for a self-proclaimed small town girl. 

Pickler's lucrative career has afforded her a luxurious lifestyle. In 2023, the songstress placed her Nashville home on the market for a cool $2.8 million. According to, the estate boasts four bedrooms, a wine cellar, a game room, and a grandiose swimming pool. Pickler and her late husband purchased the stunning abode in 2010 for just under $1.5 million. She's also the proud owner of a lavish motorhome outfitted with four televisions, a mini-spa, and a humongous shoe rack.