- 12:53 PM, May 20
Although she never went home with "American Idol" title, Kellie Pickler was one of the show's best alumni. She was born Kellie Dawn Pickler on June 28, 1986 at Stanly Memorial Hospital in Albemarle to Cynthia Morton and Clyde Raymond Pickler. Her mother was only 16 when she was pregnant with her. It was a harsh childhood for Pickler because her father struggled with addiction for drugs and alcohol while her mother left her when she was only two.
Morton returned to take her custody for a couple of years, but Pickler admitted that it was not all well. "I remember my mother and I were in the kitchen and I said, 'I wish God would take me away, I'd much rather be dead than live here with you.' She took a knife out, set it on the counter and said, 'Here, do it then.' I was in fourth grade. Of course I never would have acted upon it, but it's done a lot of emotional scarring," she said. The court eventually handed Pickler to her grandparents when she was 12 and Morton did not show up for the hearing.
Pickler was raised by her grandparents throughout her life, citing them as the major influence in her life. The grandmother Faye Pickler died from lung cancer in January 2002 and she was continued raised by the grandfather. Pickler graduated from North Stanly High School in New London, North Carolina.
Her showbiz career was kicked off with her participation in beauty pageants. At age 17, she won Miss Stanly County and subsequently competed in Miss North Carolina. But she dropped out of the competition to focus her study on paralegal while working as a waiter at a Sonic Drive-In franchise in 2005.
"I just did them for a year," Pickler said about entering pageants. "I think I've done four or five pageants total because I just wanted to sing. Living in a small [town] like Albemarle, there are not many opportunities that come along - or any at that - to showcase your talents. I just enrolled in the pageants to do the singing parts."
Nineteen years old Pickler auditioned for the fifth season of "Idol" in the fall of 2005 in Greensboro, N.C., accompanied by her grandpa. "There were like between 8,500 and 10,000 people there at the coliseum. ...We sat down and everyone around us was doing vocal warm-ups