In 2006 a small-town girl from North Carolina named Kellie Pickler found fame on American Idol’s fifth season, charming even grumpy Simon.
Six years later Kellie’s got three albums, tons of awards, and a freshman spot on Maxim’s 2012 Hot 100 under her belt. But none of these trump Kellie’s most admirable accomplishment: her unwavering support for America’s troops. This past Memorial Day marked her fifth tour with the USO.
Maxim: You recently came back from your fifth USO tour. What first inspired you to get involved?
Kellie Pickler: I come from a military family. My grandfather is a retired Marine, and I’ve always had a great deal of respect for anyone who serves our country. 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!
Maxim: Do people ever mistake you for military?
KP: I go through the airport with the official military travel backpacks, and people will come up and say, “Thank you for your service.” I’m like, “Oh, no. Don’t let these bags fool you. I’m just a big supporter!” I know they’re either going, “She’s in the service?” or “Man, we’re f***ed.”
Maxim: You’ve sure been overseas a lot. Do you have any favorite USO memories?
KP: This past trip we were at Camp Spann in Afghanistan, and there’s a little chapel there. It’s nothing fancy, but it has a lot of love, and my whole band and I stayed up one night until 3 a.m., picking with the soldiers who played guitar. We had a picking party.
Maxim: A picking party?
KP: It’s kind of like a songwriter round, and people jump up onstage, pick and play whatever they want, and sing their hearts out. It was really cool to do that in a little chapel in Afghanistan.
Go to Maxim.com for the full interview with Kellie Pickler and more photos from her sexy cover shoot.