By Tim Parks
When Kimberley Locke was a little girl growing up in Gallatin, Tennessee, she was surrounded by music and was quickly smitten with performing. But years later, she almost gave up on her musical aspirations by focusing her energies on obtaining her law degree. That is until she was encouraged to try out for the second season of “American Idol.”
Locke made the auditions cut, and outlasted all of the female competition, eventually placing third behind Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard that year. I spoke with Locke and she gave us her “Idol” thoughts (she doesn’t feel this season is quite up to snuff, citing it as just an “ok season”) and caught us up to speed about what her life has been like since that first shot of fame, including a stint on this year’s “Celebrity Fit Club” and the release of her second CD, “Based On A True Story.”
The launching pad that “American Idol” provided for her musical career also left Locke with some keen insights into what makes the music business go ‘round, and she also took away these keepsakes from the experience.
“I had a lot of fun doing it,” she said. “I learned to take a risk, because prior to auditioning for the show I was going to law school, and I felt like I took a big risk auditioning for the show and withdrawing from school. I learned that working with all of the different people on the show that you have to build relationships in this business, and that’s what it’s all about. Because had it not been for some of the relationships that I built during the show, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
From there the die was cast and she was able to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a bona fide recording artist. Locke released her first CD, “One Love,” and scored a hit with “8th World Wonder,” which garnered her a large gay fan base, as the single became a big hit in the clubs. Locke understands the nuances of keeping a gay audience entertained, and is very pleased to perform for this particular fan base.
“I appreciate the honesty and I can always count on my gay audience to be there and to support,” she explained. “I have some of my best shows with my gay audience, and I just think it’s a lot of fun and I look forward to it. And I know that if I were not, they wouldn’t support me if they didn’t think I was talented, if they didn’t believe in me. You’ve got to be the real deal.”
Not one to rest solely on her musical laurels and being a firm believer in the spirit of giving back, Locke also does a great deal of charity work. She lends her name to a great many: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, YouthAIDS, Camp Heartland, the Human Rights Campaign, Help Is On The Way (AIDS), GLAAD, Leeza’s Place (Alzheimer’s), What A Pair/Revlon/UCLA (Breast Cancer) and many more.
“It’s very important, it’s so easy to get caught up in what I do and just focus on myself and not give back,” Locke stated honestly and with humility. “And it’s easy to just give money, but I think that when you can give of yourself and give of your time, that means more than anything. Even though I’m donating my time and myself for charity, I learn so much.
“The organization that I am supporting right now is called Camp Heartland, and they work with children who are affected by AIDS and HIV; and it changed my life. When I first went to the camp and visited the kids, it was just an amazing experience, and I know how important that is to me. And, I want to continue to do it, because every now and then I need that reminder of where I came from and where I am, and how fortunate and blessed I am.”
She is also revisiting her reality show roots by appearing on the latest installment of VH-1’s“Celebrity Fit Club: Men Vs. Women,” and the experience highlights the entertainment industry’s weight obsession for Locke.
“I don’t think that it’s always been that way, I think the focus has shifted from talent to image; which is unfortunate for the entertainer. I really don’t know why it’s so important. Being honest, we’re a selfish society and we’re a little vain at this point, because we are so obsessed with our weight and our looks and things like that. And unfortunately, the media kind of hones in on that and that’s what they focus on.
“But it is what it is. I think for me, when I first got in the business, I just had to really focus on why I was in the position that I am; and how that after being on ‘American Idol’ that my life completely changed, and I was living my dreams.”
Locke definitely see the plus side of having a show that features plus sizes attempting to shed those unwanted pounds.
“The most positive aspect of ‘Celebrity Fit Club’ is that it is life changing, and you become healthy and you learn how to live a healthy lifestyle in the midst of a crazy lifestyle.” Locke recanted.
During filming of the show, she found both a friend (Maureen McCormack AKA Marcia Brady of “The Brady Bunch”) and a foe (Dustin “Screech” Diamond of “Saved By The Bell” fame) among the weight loss contingent.
“I love her, she’s such an inspiration to me, and she’s such a sweet person and a sweet spirit. I really felt connected to Maureen, she was great.” Locke said of McCormack.
But, Diamond was a whole other ball of wax to contend with.
“He was about the only negative thing about the show, as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “I’m just not the kind of person, and I never really have been, to let somebody disrespect me and kind of run over me; and that’s what he tried to do. And I don’t appreciate it, we’re there for a good reason and we’re all there trying to do the same thing; so why not be a part of it and not make yourself an outcast, and that’s what he did.”
Onto the subject of happier news…Locke has just released her second CD, “Based On A True Story”, which features the single “Change.” She feels that her sophomore effort is infused with more of her own personal touches.
“With this album I really put my heart and soul into this project,” she explained. “I co-wrote nine songs on this album, and I always feel like my fans want to know something more about me personally. And I really made the conscious decision to open up and put my life experiences out there and put it on my record.
“I just want my fans to know that I am a real person, and I feel the same things that they feel, and I hope that they find my material very relatable. And, I think they will because the things that I write about like relationships and break ups and trusting your instincts and believing in yourself, it’s all real, and we all just go through it at different times.”
This interview was first published in May 2007.