In bouncy blonde hair extensions, false eyelashes and a peach shift dress, Carrie Underwood is country glamour condensed. She’s perched next to a tower of pastel-frosted cupcakes, chatting up a group of editors at her friend’s Nashville beauty salon. We’re gathered to celebrate her new gig as the face of Almay, and she wants to give us a proper southern belle experience. No one leaves without a Steel Magnolias–calibre blowout, a bejewelled headband and a solid appreciation of Underwood’s sparkle fetish. “I just love everything feminine and shiny,” she says with the faintest Oklahoma-bred twang. “That’s who I am.”
In Almay’s lineage of blonde spokesmodels, which has included Courtney Thorne-Smith, Elaine Irwin and Kate Hudson, Underwood is the glitziest. Although she grew up on a farm, she embraced high-maintenance beauty early. “My sisters were 10 and 13 years older, so they’d put makeup on me and dress me up and tease my hair,” she says. “I was a human Barbie doll.”
You can see that early glitter girl in a hot pink T-shirt and scrunched golden curls at her American Idol audition, which she recently tweeted to mark its 10th anniversary. Four multi-platinum albums and six Grammys later, at 31, she’s still there, albeit polished to a high gloss. As the six-time co-host of the Country Music Association Awards, she’s known for her frequent and frothy costume changes. Last year, she wore 10 ensembles, including a pink gown covered in silk peony petals. She also does her own concert hair and makeup so she doesn’t have to tour with personal primpers. It takes two hours and involves, as Underwood puts it, “more eyeliner, more mascara, more eye shadow. And strip lashes.”
Though her daily routine is dialled down, she’s never undone. “Even if I’m wearing sweatpants, I just feel better about myself if I have a little something happening,” she says, “but it’s usually super-simple, like the Smart Shade [Almay’s CC Cream], some lip balm, some mascara.” I ask if she ever goes out sans makeup, and she recalls one time. “I had to take my dog to the vet early in the morning. It would’ve been selfish to make her wait,” she laughs. In between tours, she has more low-key days, which she hopes to spend working on her next album. If history is any indicator, it too will sparkle—with platinum.