If you're not familiar with Kellie Pickler from her American Idol days or because of her chart-topping country hits, you probably know how she shaved her head in September 2012 to support a friend going through breast cancer. Pickler is big on supporting causes close to her heart, from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to Lung Force, a national movement designed to unite women against lung cancer.
The singer-songwriter sat down with us to talk about her charity work, helping friends through tough times, and why she hates the word "diet."
Shape: What made you want to get involved with Lung Force?
Kellie Pickler (KP): When the American Lung Association reached out about partnering up for their new movement Lung Force, I was instantly on board because it's something that's very close and dear to my heart. My grandmother, who was the woman that I called "Mom," was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2002 and passed away the next morning. It was very sudden—there's no way to prepare for that. You just kind of pick up the pieces and do what you can, and now I'm able to be a part of this special movement. I feel like I'm able to do this in my grandmother's honor, so it's really amazing to be a part of.
Shape: What's the most important takeaway from this movement?
KP: For me, this is really about shining a light on lung cancer and the fact that it is the number-one cancer killer of women in America. You need to know your family's medical history, because you don't have to be a smoker to be diagnosed with lung cancer, it can be genetic. I think it's important to have this on our radar.
Shape: Your friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. What tips do you have for supporting a friend going through that?
KP: Regardless of what type of cancer, it's important for the victim to have what I call a "cancer buddy," someone who can walk through that valley with them so they don't feel alone. Being able to shave my head with Summer was amazing. It was liberating at the same time, just kind of breaking away from that stereotype that we've created and trying to live up to that just doesn't even exist.
Shape: Did shaving your head change your views on body image and self-esteem?
KP: To be honest, before we shaved our heads, I went to the wig store and had all these amazing wigs made, and then we shaved our heads, and I went, "You know what, I didn't shave my head to cover it up. I'm gonna rock my bald head with a smile on my face!" And I did not take one wig out of the box. We shaved our heads on a Wednesday or Thursday, and I had a show that Friday, so I was on stage. We put so much pressure on ourselves. It's important to have expectations and goals and to try to be the best you that you can be, within reason. [Tweet this quote!] Women, we can be our biggest bullies. I don't need anyone else to talk about me because I'm going to be hard enough on myself. I think it's important to know that happiness really does come from within. Having said that, you need to take care of yourself and you need to know what you're putting into your body.
Shape: How do you take care of yourself?
KP: I'm pescetarian. For the most part I have a very healthy...I don't like to say diet, because I think people cringe at the word "diet" because they think they're going to starve—I call it a lifestyle. I have a healthy eating lifestyle. I drink a lot of water, and I love to go kayaking and hiking and being outdoors. I'm kind of a tomboy. My girlfriends and I like to go to hot yoga together. You get a workout buddy and go do things together, and it breaks up the monotony of the same workout everyday. You have to take care of yourself; we get one body and one life. While I'm alive I want to live and I want to feel good, and I want to look the best that I can look. There's nothing wrong with wanting to take care of yourself and look the best that you know you can look.