Norwin grad honors mom in performance with Carrie Underwood at Pittsburgh show | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Norwin grad honors mom in performance with Carrie Underwood at Pittsburgh show

Matt Rosenberg
1802708_web1_ptr-MollyCarrieUnderwood4
Matt Rosenberg | Tribune-Review
Norwin graduate Molly Papp sings “The Champion” on stage with Carrie Underwood on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
1802708_web1_ptr-MollyCarrieUnderwood3-101419
Molly Papp
Joan and Molly Papp
1802708_web1_ptr-MollyCarrieUnderwood5-101419
Matt Rosenberg | Tribune-Review
Norwin graduate Molly Papp sings “The Champion” on stage with Carrie Underwood on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
1802708_web1_ptr-MollyCarrieUnderwood1-101419
Matt Rosenberg | Tribune-Review
Norwin graduate Molly Papp sings “The Champion” on stage with Carrie Underwood on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
1802708_web1_ptr-MollyCarrieUnderwood2-101419
Matt Rosenberg | Tribune-Review
Norwin graduate Molly Papp sings “The Champion” on stage with Carrie Underwood on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Molly Papp’s champion is her mother, Joan.

Always has been. The two are best friends, Molly said, and “do everything together.”

A nearly 30-year battle with multiple sclerosis has seen Joan Papp have to persevere and keep fighting.

So when country megastar Carrie Underwood posted a call to action earlier this year, Molly, a 2018 Norwin graduate who already had tickets to go to Underwood’s show Saturday at PPG Paints Arena with her mom, jumped at what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The task? Submit a video of you rapping Ludacris’ verse in Underwood’s “The Champion” with a written explanation of who your champion is and why.

The reward? In each stop along her 60-plus-city Cry Pretty Tour 360, Underwood would pick a submission from that town, and the winner would sing that verse on stage and complete the song with Underwood.

“She’s had MS for about 30 years, but not once has she let it defeat her or has she given up,” Molly said of her mother. “She’s a champion, and she’s a fighter.”

Joan said that though she has the disease, not many know. She shows few visible signs of it, but she said Molly can always tell when she is feeling its effects.

So Molly gave the Ludacris verse her best shot in a video submission just a few weeks before the show.

And, well …

“On Tuesday, they sent me an email saying, ‘You’ve been chosen to sing with Carrie Underwood,’ ” Molly said. “I screamed. I cried. I called my mom. That’s just crazy.”

Molly, a sophomore at Youngstown State University, said she had no public singing experience outside of Norwin talent shows and singing the national anthem at the school’s sporting events. She also got to sing it at the 2017 WPIAL basketball championship game at Petersen Events Center.

“I thought that was going to be the largest crowd I was going to sing in front of,” Molly said. “Little did I know.”

It’s the powerful lyrics of the chorus in “The Champion” that were the hook behind Molly’s written explanation to the contest.

I am invincible. Unbreakable. Unstoppable. Unshakable. They knock me down, I get up again.

“This disease could knock her down and break her, but she always manages to come out stronger,” Molly wrote. “My mom is my biggest champion.”

8793-E377-94-C6-43-DE-A0-BB-7-EB0943-ECB79

What transpired Saturday at the concert was a whirlwind. Molly sat with her mom in the crowd until three songs before “The Champion” was set to come on. A stagehand took her back and under the stage, and she got prepared.

No rehearsal. No meet-and-greet. An application of glitter tears from Underwood’s makeup artist and a quick sound check, then it was onto the stage for Molly.

“Molly has always been such a supporter of me. She’s been a rock for me,” Joan said. “To have her honor me like that and just be on stage singing with Carrie Underwood (was amazing). She’s a great kid, and she deserves everything she can get.”

What she got Saturday was a thunderous ovation from a stunned crowd that seemed to be trying to figure out why this 20-year-old with a powerhouse voice isn’t doing anything professionally with it.

Molly also got the hat Underwood wore during her performance of “Drinking Alone” earlier in the night.

Not to mention high praise from Underwood herself.

“Girl can sing!” Underwood said, reacting to Molly belting out the final notes of “The Champion.” “Molly’s coming after my job, ya’ll.”

As for what the future holds musically for Molly, Joan said the family knows she is “super talented” but they aren’t sure what steps to take to advance that into a singing career.

In the meantime, Molly is focusing on her business studies at Youngstown State. She makes time for music while driving around and singing with her mom. Christmas is on the horizon, and singing holiday songs together is one of their favorite times of the year.

“I never thought this would even happen to where I would even have to consider thinking about (a singing career),” Molly said. “But maybe. I’ve loved country music my whole life. Carrie has made it a dream that I’ve wanted to become a country singer and write those songs that people can relate to.”

Matt Rosenberg is a Tribune-Review assistant multimedia editor. You can contact Matt at 412-320-7937, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.