Kellie Pickler: 21 Facts About The American Idol Contestant Turned Country Star

You've likely heard of Kellie Pickler, even if you aren't a fan of country music. According to Biography, the star was born on June 28, 1986, and she got her start in beauty pageants before rising to worldwide fame on the fifth season of "American Idol." Although she didn't win the competition, coming in sixth place, her talent captivated the world, and Pickler's life hasn't been the same since. 

Pickler got her start in show business at a young age and has had a vibrant career since her big break on "American Idol," churning out several albums. 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. She told Spotlight Central that her time on the show "went really fast" and that "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 of the adventure. "I wish I had written so many things down and kept notes," she said. Even without the notes, though, the show was a transformative experience for Pickler, who said that it "completely changed my life for the better" and "helped my dreams to become a reality."

Kellie Pickler 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, who's one of several celebrities whose parents are criminals, told The Boot that she grew up visiting her father, who was in a constant battle with drugs and alcohol, in prison. The experience took a toll on Pickler, 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. 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, but that "everyone pays their dues in different ways."

No one can say that Pickler hasn't paid her dues many times over. She told Parade that "American Idol" became "the rocket that launched my career," but her continued success is all due to her hard work and diligence. While most of the people who competed on Pickler's 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 still hasn't fully adjusted to being a movie star. In 2019, she told Good Housekeeping that she still thinks of herself as being "new to the whole acting thing." Still, hopefully more Hallmark holiday movies are in her future!

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. She did this by making sure she was "surrounded ... with good people," as she told The Press-Enterprise.

In fact, this strategy worked so well for Pickler that it forms the basis of her go-to advice for others who are looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry — or any industry for that matter. Pickler said that it's important to have a core group of trustworthy people "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. Pickler told Us Weekly that she was "overwhelmed with joy" at the win and "was shocked" to even make it to the finals.

Pickler may not have been known for her dance moves before "Dancing With the Stars," but she does have a background in dance. The country star was a cheerleader in middle school and high school. Cheerleading is a bit different from the kind of dancing Pickler did on "Dancing With the Stars," but it did provide her with a solid foundation. Pickler told Country Weekly (via The Boot) that her past cheerleading experience helped with her "greatest strength," her "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," which 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, "fell in love with the show." 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, which Pickler described as being "about laughter and love" (via Broadway World). She added, "We just want to be a bright light and make people laugh and feel good."

Kellie Pickler 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."

Losing this person had a huge impact on Kellie Pickler's life

One of the most devastating times in Kellie Pickler's life came in 2002, when her grandmother, Faye Pickler, passed away the day after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Pickler told ABC News that her grandmother raised her and was "the woman I called mom."

The sudden loss left Pickler 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, saying that fighting lung cancer is "near and dear to my heart." Pickler added that lung cancer kills tens of thousands of women in the U.S. alone every year. 

Her grandmother was only 66 years old and grew up in a generation that didn't understand the deadly effects of smoking, which is why it's so important to Pickler to educate others. "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 charmed audiences on "American Idol" with her sweet Southern belle attitude. While Pickler can definitely be a girly girl, she's got more than a little tomboy in her, admitting to IGN that she's "like a boy sometimes" and even enjoys going to Hooters — for the food. Pickler has been like this since childhood, revealing that her baby pics show her with "knees ... all banged up" and covered with "scratches and bug bites."

Pickler added that she's "always been one of the guys" and isn't the type of woman who takes too long to get ready. That being said, Pickler does like to get dressed up on occasion and look her best, and then she goes all out. "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. "My grandmother always told me to be a lady, but sometimes I don't act like one," she revealed. "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 doesn't plan 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 after Pickler "stormed on [her] bus ... upset about a boy." 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 Southern Living 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 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.'"

Kellie Pickler isn't ready to have kids

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. She joked that having a band is "kind of like having kids." Pickler added, "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 — telling Us Weekly in 2019 that the couple were proud "dog parents" of their "two little small puppies" — she said that 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 that her favorite swear word is "an awful cuss word," but she said she can't rein it in. "It's so bad," 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."

She lost her husband in 2023

Kellie Pickler faced a personal tragedy when her husband, Kyle Jacobs, died in what seemed to be a suicide on February 17, 2023 at the age of 49. Pickler did not publicly comment on her loss at the time of her husband's death, but has always been outspoken about her love for her spouse. "Nobody knows the woman I am better than my husband," she once told USA Today. "There was no way I could try to be anything I'm not, because he could definitely call me on it."

In an interview with The Boot, Pickler gushed, "He makes me feel so, so great about myself. 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."

The couple collaborated on a number of songs together, including "Bonnie & Clyde" and "The Woman I Am." Jacobs also worked on a number of songs for other artists, including Garth Brooks, Trace Adkins, George Strait, Scotty McCreery, and Jason Michael Carroll.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

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 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, saying (via 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 hasn't let fame go to her head. In an interview with E! News, she admitted that she's a bit of a homebody, saying, "I'm such a simple girl honestly. I love gardening. My friends call me the fifth unofficial Golden Girl ... 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. "It dehumanizes people. 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 another country star, 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?"

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, but nothing seems to have come of them as of this writing.

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's only fitting since she has so many talents. The country singer showed her talent for television hosting with "Pickler & Ben," and brought her hosting talents to the radio 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!"

Pickler has also asked fans to send in funny stories and jokes on social media, tweeting requests like, "The world could use more laughter...tell me a random funny story that I can share on @SXMTheHighway."