Carrie Underwood's life changed forever after she was declared the winner of Season 4 of American Idol in 2005, but there was a moment when the singer almost changed her mind before heading to Hollywood. In a new essay for Guideposts, Underwood reflected on her journey to fame, which began when her mom drove her to Idol auditions in St. Louis, Missouri, around six hours away from her hometown of Checotah, Oklahoma.
Underwood was preparing to start her senior year at Northeastern State University, where she was majoring in mass communications with an emphasis on broadcast journalism, when she saw a news segment about Idol auditions.
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"I checked online. The closest auditions were being held in St. Louis," she wrote. "'How far away is St. Louis?' I asked my mom. 'Six or seven hours in the car,' she said. 'Too far,' I thought. 'Out of the question.'" 'Why do you want to know?' Mom asked. 'They're having American Idol auditions there.' 'I'll take you.' Just like that."
The Grammy winner admitted that "it would be easy to say the rest is history, that it was meant to be. But it didn't feel like that at the time."
"Going through a slew of auditions in St. Louis, getting the 'golden ticket' to Hollywood, every contestant's dream, I was terrified," she shared. "Every time I had to sing in front of the judges, I'd get nervous the way I did in church that first time. Then I'd say a prayer and leave it in God's hands."
After earning her ticket to Hollywood, Underwood's parents drove her to the airport when she realized she had forgotten her lip liner. "We stopped at a grocery store, and Mom dashed inside to buy some. All at once, it was just too much," she wrote. "Going out to Los Angeles by myself, competing with all those other people who were so talented. I burst into tears. My dad turned to me in the backseat. 'Carrie,' he said, 'we can go home right now, and we don't ever have to talk about it again.' I took a deep breath. 'No,' I said at last. 'I'll go.'"
In a moment that would have surely gone viral had it happened today, Underwood was interviewed by Idol host Ryan Seacrest after she arrived in California and asked her if she had seen any stars. Underwood replied that it had been too cloudy, and she wrote that "That naivete, that innocence, is something I've come to be grateful for."
"Growing up on a farm with loving parents and our church family defined my values," she explained. "A small town with good people helped form me. I was rooted in something solid before I got to spread my wings."