Kellie Pickler Was Prepared for Ballroom Dancing Challenge

Originally published in our March 25, 2013 issue featuring Reba McEntire on the cover.

On her critically acclaimed album 100 Proof, Kellie musically demands to unlock that honky-tonk, so we know that the country cutie is familiar with at least one kind of hardwood floor. But it’s worlds apart from the one she’ll be getting to know as a competitor on the 16th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars

Timing had a lot to do with Kellie signing on this season, after having been asked several times before. Her recording schedule will allow for her to divide her time between making a new album and rehearsals for DWTS. But it was her grandpa Ken that was the deciding factor. “It’s his favorite show,” she says with a laugh. “He told me that if I didn’t do it, then I wasn’t his favorite granddaughter anymore. Funny thing is, I’m his only granddaughter. I’m his only grandchild!”  

Kellie became the envy of regular Dancing With the Stars viewers when she was partnered with the handsome Derek Hough, who also happens to be the brother of country singer and former Dancing professional Julianne Hough. “In no way, shape or form would I ever compare myself to her,” Kellie says, “but I think every woman sitting at home watching wishes they could dance like her.” She is delighted to be paired with Julianne’s sibling, though. Besides being an amazing dancer—a three-time Dancing champion—Derek is “so funny, too,” Kellie says. “He’s got a great personality, and if you’re rehearsing for five hours or more a day it makes a big difference if you like your company.” And those five-hour days are no joke. Just after their first meeting, the two hit the dance studio for a lengthy three-hour rehearsal so Kellie could break in her dancing shoes and, she says, laughing, “For him to see what he’s working with, his canvas.” 

But for Kellie, who has always been open to new experiences, the opportunity is about more than rhinestone-encrusted gowns, mile-high hair, bare-chested dance partners and excessive spray-tanning. “I think I’m just the most excited about doing something different,” she says. “Learning all of these different dances and techniques—I’ve never done any of this before, so it’s going to be a challenge.” 

Obviously, as a former cheerleader, she has some rhythm and the ability to learn routines, but Kellie says the comparison between cheering and dancing ends there, and her cheerleading background could actually be a hindrance. “Cheerleading is so sharp and more tight fists,” she explains. “The movements and the techniques and the dances could not be more different.” 

Hopes are high that a tune from 100 Proof or perhaps the project she is currently recording may become the music bed for one of their choreographed numbers. Kellie says the new album will reflect her continued evolution as a recording artist. “You can’t go into the studio and make the same album over and over again,” she says wisely. “The new album that we’re working on now is, of course, country, but everyone’s definition of country music is different. I think there’s room for all of it.” 

It’s too early for her to predict what her chances are of winning DWTS’ coveted mirrorball trophy. The bubbly blonde says her goal is to “just stay positive and not be so hard on myself.” That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to win, however. “It’s OK to have high expectations and goals, but you can’t beat yourself up over it.” 

The 16th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars kicks off March 18. 

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