February 13, 2008 12:00 AM

Kellie Pickler has enjoyed continued success as a country artist since her run on American Idol. But the success did have a price, Pickler tells PEOPLE.

“Going through that whole process and literally overnight you’re on 30-40 million television sets ever week — it’s not necessarily you that changes but it’s the around you that change,” Pickler says.

Her advice to the new crop of of contestants in the top 24?

“Stay away from mean ! Of course that’s with any profession,” she says, noting that it’s important to “surround yourself with that support you and pray for you.”

Since leaving her job as a Sonic Burger waitress in Albemarle, N.C., to pursue her dreams, “I lost so many . No one that I was close with before am I even remotely close to now. I have maybe three in my life now that have been amazing through the whole process.”

One of the Pickler is proud to count as her friends is fellow Idol contestant Katharine McPhee. Pickler was “honored” to have been a bridesmaid at McPhee’s Feb. 2 wedding to producer Nick Cokas.

“Kat and I were roommates (on Idol) and built a bond that I was not able to build with anyone else on the show,” says Pickler. “She instantly became like a big sister to me and Nick became like a big brother. I’m so blessed to have them in my life.” –Monica RizzoChris Polk/FilmMagic

You May Like

EDIT POST