updated 02/11/2009 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/11/2009 AT 12:55 PM ET
The nominees for the 44th annual Academy of Country Music Awards were announced during The Early Show on Wednesday morning, bringing good news for performers including Brad Paisley, Julianne Hough, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift.
Kellie Pickler – who made the announcements along with Jessica Simpson, LeAnn Rimes, and Hough – lit up and clapped when Underwood’s name was called. “I think it’s so amazing a female is up there to represent,” she tells PEOPLE.
Adds Rimes, “We’re in such a male dominated world, it’s great to see a woman there.”
During the April 5 ceremony, Rimes will receive the ACM/Home Depot Humanitarian Award for her community service work, much of which is with children’s and veterans causes.
“To be recognized for my humanitarian work is a different excitement and honor,” she says. “We’re in such a selfish business – we get doted over all the time, so it’s good to step out of yourself and think about others. It brings more joy to my life than anything anyone could do for me.”
Meanwhile, Hough, a Dancing with the Stars champ who released her first album last year, will compete for the title of top new female vocalist. “It’s the best feeling in the world to know people are welcoming me,” she says.
Simpson did not receive any nominations, but seemed in good spirits in the wake of recent body bullying. She told The Early Show, “I’m great. I’m just keeping the faith.”
The ACM Awards will be broadcast live on CBS from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Reporting by EILEEN FINAN