Chenoweth was adopted when she was five days old by Junie Smith Chenoweth and Jerry Morris Chenoweth, both chemical engineers from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, and named Kristi Dawn Chenoweth. She has stated that she is of one quarter Cherokee ancestry. At an early age, she performed gospel songs for local churches. A performing highlight of her childhood was a solo appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention national conference at the age of 12, where she performed the Evie song "Four Feet Eleven". The chorus begins, "I'm only 4 feet 11, but I'm going to Heaven" (Chenoweth is 4 ft 11 in (150 cm) in height). After graduating from Broken Arrow Senior High School, where she participated in school plays, Chenoweth attended Oklahoma City University, where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta (Beta Omicron) sorority. She earned a bachelor's degree in musical theatre in 1990 and a master's degree in opera performance in 1992, studying under voice instructor and mentor, Florence Birdwell. While at OCU, Chenoweth competed in beauty pageants, winning the title of "Miss OCU" and was the second runner-up in the Miss Oklahoma pageant in 1991. In 1992, Chenoweth participated in a studio recording of The Most Happy Fella.