Country singer's new foundation for horses
By Tony Rossi
Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Season 7 American Idol contestant Kristy Lee Cook was always a favorite of mine on the show from the moment she sang one of the best renditions of "Amazing Grace" I've ever heard. Following her time on Idol, Kristy released the album "Why Wait" and recently started a foundation to help her other passion in life besides music: horses. Kristy joined me recently on "Christopher Closeup" to discuss the foundation, her time on Idol, and how she is able to deal with the ups and downs that come her way in life. Here's an excerpt:
TR: You recently started the Kristy Lee Horse Heaven Foundation so tell me about that and what you hope to accomplish.
Kristy Lee Cook: I just started a foundation for rescuing horses - neglected, off-the-track, abused horses. We rehabilitate them, show them, ride them and get them good homes. We also have a program for kids who can't afford horses of their own. It allows them to come out and play with the horses and ride. We're really excited about it.
TR: How did you develop your love of horses?
Kristy Lee Cook: I think it started when I was two years old. My Dad put me up on a big thoroughbred up at Longacres in Washington when they had a racetrack up there. Ever since I sat on that horse, I've always wanted one.
TR: You said one of the goals of the foundation is to work with at-risk youth and kids to expose them to the horses. Have you ever seen any difference, either in your own experiences or with other people, of how these kids change from working with the horses?
Kristy Lee Cook: Yeah, horses are proven to be therapeutic. There are kids with a lot of health issues and stuff and - I don't know what it is about horses but they just seem to have that healing comfort about them. I know that a lot of people who are troubled, if they rehabilitate a horse, a lot of times it makes them look at themselves - and it rehabilitates them as well as rehabilitating the horse...(Horses) can understand you. They can feel if you're hurt and upset and happy. They can read all that so I think it's a comfort knowing you have something that understands you...I've had a couple of horses that have pretty much saved my life. When it comes down to protecting their owner, they really do their best. I know they say dog is man's best friend but horses are my best friend.
TR: You're working through the foundation. I also read that you were passing out Christmas gifts to needy families on Christmas day. How did those seeds of giving back get planted in your life? Did your family ever face hard times and need help themselves?
Kristy Lee Cook: Oh yeah. Still to this day, my family doesn't have a lot of money. I remember being poor a lot of times and growing up without anything. I've had those experiences and my Dad had a hard life growing up. Nothing's ever really come easy to our family so I definitely understand. And I was raised in a good home. We're a very giving family and we like to do what we can to help others.
TR: Kristy, when you were on American Idol you faced some challenging times. You were sick for several weeks. You had to endure some, what I thought, were unfair critiques from the judges. When you're dealing with that kind of stuff, what got you through it mentally, emotionally, spiritually?
Kristy Lee Cook: It definitely was God helping me get through. That was a hard, hard thing to do and God made it easier for me. Everything happens for a reason and this is all part of His plan so no matter how hard it is, you've just got to keep going.
TR: Did the friendships you formed on the show also help you deal with what was going on?
Kristy Lee Cook: Yeah, you get really close to a lot of people on the show because they're all you have. It becomes a brother-sister kind of relationship. You're away from your family and you're away from your friends and all your loved ones...but everyone else on the show is going through the same thing, and they're there for you. Brooke and I were really close and we were always there for each other.
TR: When you were let go from the show, did it depress you for a while or did it start a fire in your belly to go on and do great things?
Kristy Lee Cook: It's never been easy for me in the music business and it still is not easy. I believe that if a door opens, I'm going to walk through it. If it closes, I believe another one will open. I'm just taking all the steps God is wanting me to take, and hopefully it'll pan out in the end.
(To hear more about Kristy's time on American Idol, the reaction she got to her singing "God Bless the U.S.A., and the making of her album "Why Wait," download the full "Christopher Closeup" podcast at www.christophers.org/closeuppodcast.