Thirteen years ago, her booming voice and giant grin exploded on our screens, the darling of reality TV when the concept was in its infancy.
Ricki-Lee Coulter, then just a teenager, had a voice beyond her years and the platform to launch a career. So, she did. Over a decade on, and Coulter is still singing and still in our charts, just recently releasing her new single, Not Too Late.
Her adult life has been defined by fame, fortune and talent. Her childhood was one punctuated by addiction.
In an interview with Thinkergirl: The Podcast, Coulter said growing up with parents who were addicts had a distinctive influence on the person she grew to be.
“I don’t have an addictive personality, so I sat back watching… my parents partying all the time and I grew up knowing that feeling of resentment and watching them thinking, you’re an embarrassment. And I hate what you’re doing and I hate the way you’re acting and I hate the way that you forget about me when this is happening.”
“And I remember all those feelings, they were so strong when I was growing up.
“I had a real issue – in my late teenage years when I was really becoming a woman and coming into myself – with the way they were living their life.”
Coulter added it “totally” had an influence on her relationship with drugs and alcohol.
“I have a drink and all of that, but drugs I just can’t. I have a really grossed out attitude towards drugs because I have seen a lot of it in my life. I grew up watching my family, and I thought, I never, ever want to be like you.
“I’m never the messy one, I’m always together. I don’t want anyone to look at me through the eyes that I looked at my mum and dad when they got hammered.”
When she was just three months of age, Coulter’s parents separated and she moved to the Gold Coast with her mother. Her mother later re-married, but had to work multiple jobs to keep the family afloat.
In an interview with radio duo Fitzy and Wippa back in 2014, she said it was her unconventional upbringing that informed her decision to not have kids.
“I’m the eldest of like 30 grandchildren, my mum is one of like, fifty thousand kids. I was the eldest of all these grandkids and I was the one looking after them.
“My mum had me when she was really young and so I was dumped with whoever – aunty or friend or cousin who would take me while she went out partying, being an 18-year-old.”
The 31-year-old told the program at the time both her and husband Rich Harrison “don’t want kids”.
“I don’t know whether it’s my experience as a kid, but I know how crazy my life is and how all over the place it is, and you have to be selfish to do what I do.
“I have so much respect for people who actually do do it but I wouldn’t want to put a kid through what I went through.”
In 2016, Coulter’s step-father faced court for unlawfully producing cannabis in his backyard.
The year prior, two of her cousins – New Zealand porn star Aaron Crawford and Gold Coast bikie Lionel Patea were charged with the murder of missing Gold Coast man Greg Dufty over an alleged drug debt.
Patea was already in custody after being charged separately over the murder of his ex-partner Tara Brown, who in September he ran off the road and bludgeoned to death with a manhole cover.
In February of this year, he was sentenced to life in prison.
And yet somehow, from this backdrop of destruction and dysfunction, Ricki-Lee emerged as one of Australia’s brightest stars.