Carrie Marie Underwood was born to Stephen and Carolyn Underwood in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and was raised on her parents' farm in the rural town of Checotah, Oklahoma. She has two older sisters, Shanna and Stephanie. Her father, Stephen, worked in a paper mill and her mother was an elementary school teacher. During her childhood, Underwood had performed at Robbins Memorial Talent Show while also singing at the Free Will Baptist Church and later on for local events in Checotah, including Old Settler's Day and the Lion's Club. In 1996, she was in the process of getting a contract with Capitol Records, but the deal was canceled when the recording company's management changed.
Underwood graduated from Checotah High School in 2001 as salutatorian. After high school, she attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, graduating magna cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and an emphasis in journalism. Underwood is a member of the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. For two years during the summer, she performed in Northeastern's Downtown Country show in Tahlequah. She also competed in numerous beauty pageants at the university and was selected as Miss NSU runner-up in 2004.
 American Idol
Main article: American Idol (season 4)
In the summer of 2004, Underwood auditioned for American Idol in St. Louis. During the top eleven finalists' performance on the March 22, 2005, Idol episode, Underwood sang a rendition of the number one 80's rock hit "Alone" by Heart and judge Simon Cowell predicted that Underwood would not only win the competition, but would outsell all previous Idol winners. Underwood is one of five winners never to have been voted in the bottom three (the others being Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and David Cook); one of the show's producers later said that Underwood dominated the voting, winning each week handily. While on the show,...