Helfer was born in rural Donalda, Alberta, Canada, to Dennis and Elaine Helfer. She studied at William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler, Alberta. She lived and worked on the family's grain farm with her three sisters; Trina, Tammy and Tara. She was discovered at age 17 by a modeling agency scout while standing in line at a movie theatre. She is of German, English, Swedish and Norwegian descent.