Lauren Alaina is one of the most successful country artists to emerge from the phenomenon that is American Idol. But just a year after topping five different Billboard charts, the singer lost a loved one to The Big C. Here’s a look at the emotional way in which Alaina revealed the news.
Born in Rossville, Georgia, in 1994, Lauren Alaina began performing at a young age, singing in her local kids choir and at various family parties. She won her first talent contest at eight years old and subsequently became a regular performer at the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga. She also triumphed aged ten over approximately 1500 children at the American Model and Talent Competition.
Alaina first traveled to Nashville two years later and also started showcasing her talents at various Broadway bars. Her big break came when she made the live stages of American Idol‘s tenth season in 2011. An early favorite, Alaina eventually finished runner-up behind the show’s youngest-ever boy to win, 17-year-old Scotty McCreery.
After landing a deal with Interscope Records, Alaina reached No.20 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with “Like My Mother Does.” That same year, she performed at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time, appeared alongside Martina McBride at the CMA Music Festival and reunited with McCreery to present at the CMT Music Awards. Her debut album, Wildflower, entered the Billboard 200 at No.5.
Alaina was then invited to sing in front of Barack and Michelle Obama for a PBS special recorded at the White House and at the Thanksgiving Day encounter between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. After supporting Jason Aldean and Sugarland on tour, she announced her own run of headline shows. In 2012 she was crowned the American Country Awards’ New Artist of the Year.
Alaina took some time to follow up her debut, only releasing her sophomore, Road Less Traveled, in 2017. The star joined Luke Bryan on tour to support the record and topped the Billboard Country Airplay chart with its title track. She later collaborated with duo Rascal Flatts on their tenth LP, Back to Us.
Alaina then joined forces with country vocalist Kane Brown on the single “What Ifs.” The pair subsequently became the first-ever act to reach pole position on all five of Billboard’s main country charts at the same time. Brown and Alaina also picked up Best Collaborative Video at the CMT Music Awards in 2018.
Alaina has also dipped her toes into the acting world, having starred in the romantic drama The Road Less Traveled. In 2018 she hit the road with the likes of Cole Swindell, Alan Jackson and Jason Aldean. She also referenced female superstars Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears in “Ladies in the ’90s,” the nostalgic single from her third album.
But 2018 was a mixed year on the personal front for Alaina. In the July she revealed she had got engaged to her boyfriend of six years, Alex Hopkins. “Being yours forever has a nice ‘RING’ to it. #HoppilyEverHopkins @_alex_hopkins WE ARE ENGAGED. EEEK,” an excitable Alaina posted on Instagram.
Alaina had previously spoken to Taste of Country about her feelings for Hopkins, gushing, “He’s like an actual angel on earth. He’s the most attractive man I have ever seen. Like every time I look at him, I mean, the older we get, the more attractive he gets and I’m starting to be like, ‘Glad we met at 17 because you are way cuter than me.’”
But 2018 was also the year that Alaina’s stepfather tragically passed away, having been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Sam Ramker had married Alaina’s mother Kristy after her divorce from husband J.J. Suddeth in 2013. Alaina revealed the news of his death in a touching Instagram post.
Alaina posted a family photo in which she posed alongside Ramker, her fiancé and her mother . She captioned it, “My stepdad, Sam, went to heaven at one o’clock this morning. He was the purest example of how to love and live life fully.”
Alaina continued, “His last few hours were some of the most amazing moments I know I will ever have the privilege of witnessing. He opened his eyes last night. They shined the brightest I’ve ever seen anyone’s eyes shine, and he said, ‘Jesus.’” Alaina then revealed that the family asked Ramker what he saw. He replied, “It’s so beautiful.”
Alaina added, “He later said, ‘I love you all. I found it.’ My mom asked him what he found and he said, ‘Heaven. I’ve got to go.’ An hour later he went to be with the Lord. I want this story to be an example of how real God is. I want us to all be a little more like Sam.”
Alaina then reeled off the list of qualities she found so endearing in her stepfather. She said, “He was strong. He was the most compassionate person in the world.” And she added, “He would go without to help a stranger. He was a great dad. Now he is with the best Father in the universe.”
Alaina went on to thank all those who had offered her family their support during the difficult time. “We appreciate the love, donations, and prayers that we have received,” she wrote. And the tributes continued to come in after she had made her Instagram post.
Fellow solo female artist Lindsay Ell replied, “I am so sorry… praying for you and your family.” Little Big Town vocalist Karen Fairchild responded, “So sorry for your loss Lauren. Praying for strength and peace for you and your family.”
Alaina had previously been forced to pull out of several high-profile events due to her stepfather’s passing. She canceled dates alongside Dustin Lynch and Cole Swindell on the Reason to Drink Another Tour. And she also had to miss the Country Music Television Artists of the Year event.
Ramker’s nearest and dearest had previously set up a GoFundMe page to help with the costs of his medical bills. The country star regularly kept fans up to date about her stepfather’s condition on her Instagram page. In June 2018 she revealed that he had first been given his cancer diagnosis in the same week that she had been crowned the ACM Awards’ New Female Vocalist of the Year.
Alaina told her many followers about how much that particular accolade meant to her. She said, “We made sure he and my mom were there for the award show. That trophy is my very favorite thing I’ve ever gotten. It brought so much happiness in a week of sadness. That’s how God works.”