chely_wrightChely Wright

Kansas native Chely Wright first earned her place in Nashville's elite after being named best new female vocalist in 1994 by the Academy of Country Music. She followed up her early promise in 1999 with a No. 1 country hit in "Single White Female." In 2001, she even landed on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People list. But she made national headlines in 2010 when she came out as a lesbian -- a declaration that caused major ripples within the country music industry and the world of pop culture. The announcement coincided with the release of her first book, a memoir titled "Like Me."

"Before I had a record deal when I had a band called County Line when I still lived in Wellsville (Kansas), I played a show in Greeley, Kansas. The total number of people who showed up was zero. Nobody. It was at a venue with a restaurant on one side and a dance hall on the other. No one showed up, so we talked the owner into opening the door and letting people come in for free. It ended up being amazing. People stayed all night and drank a lot. What they sold in beer alone ended up paying for what we cost. But the first couple of sets were pretty miserable. So that was a bad beginning and a good end. But I've got this optimistic thing in me where I try to block out the bad."

— Chely Wright