The untold truth of Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire isn't just one of the greatest country singers alive today — she is also one of the greatest country singers of all time. The powerhouse has been on the music scene for decades. According to The Boot, she has won dozens of awards for her work, including Grammys, American Music Awards, CMA awards, and ACM awards. In addition to being a talented singer, she's also a talented actress, so you've almost definitely seen her on the big or small screen at some point over the years.

There's no doubt about it: McEntire is one of the queens of country, and it doesn't look like she's slowing down any time soon. How did she get to the top? What is the secret to her enduring career? Here's how music icon Reba McEntire grew from a country girl raised in a small town to one of the biggest superstars in the world.

Reba McEntire grew up in an incredibly close-knit family

Reba McEntire and her family are very close. She told Southern Living that she grew up in a small town in Oklahoma with only 18 people in her graduating class. She also had a lot of family nearby. McEntire described her small town as "a family community" where "you didn't get away with much if anything."

McEntire's family helps her stay grounded. Even though she's a famous country music star, her siblings treat her no differently than they treat each other, and, when she goes home, she's just like everybody else. She even joins in and helps do chores when the family gets together. If her ego ever gets too inflated, she can count on her family to bring her back down to earth. "We support each other, and we've always been there for each other," she told Cowboys & Indians. "So that does ground you because you've got somebody, they're going, 'Hey, get off your high horse. You're just like us.'"

How Reba McEntire realized she had talent

Reba McEntire has been singing ever since she was a little girl. When she was in first grade, she landed a solo singing "Away in a Manger" in a Christmas program, and the rest is history. McEntire told CMT News that she realized she was talented because of how her family responded to her voice. Instead of telling her to leave the room or to play outside like they did when she tried to interrupt the family to speak, everyone would stop whatever they were doing to listen to her whenever she started singing.

Seeing the attention she got for her singing didn't just help McEntire realize her talent — it was also how she stood out as one of the middle children in the family. "I wasn't the oldest or the youngest," she explained. "I wasn't the only boy, and I was usually in the way. ... So when I got good attention from the singing, I knew that was probably where I needed to land."

Reba McEntire was a competitive barrel racer

Reba McEntire grew up on a ranch and soon enough entered the rodeo circuit as a competitive barrel racer. The rodeo runs in her blood, as her father and grandfather were both world-champion steer ropers. While McEntire loved the sport — and a video uploaded to YouTube of her riding at the rodeo proves her talent — her dad discouraged her from pursuing the sport professionally, saying she just wasn't good enough.

"[My parents] were always encouraging us to follow our dreams, but don't stay too long," she told CMT News. "And my dream at the time, when I was younger, was to be a world-champion barrel racer." She continued, "Daddy would just point-blank tell me, 'Reba, I don't know why you want to do something you're not good at.'"

Her dad told her that she should be singing instead of barrel racing, but it would be a while before the young McEntire took his advice. "I couldn't practice singing, but I could go practice running barrels," said McEntire. "That was fun. And keeping a horse in shape — that was fun."

You may have heard of Reba McEntire's siblings

Music is something that runs in the McEntire family. Two of Reba McEntire's siblings are also talented singers. Her brother, Pake, and her sister, Susie, have both had successful music careers, although they aren't as well known as their famous sister. Before the three of them had successful solo careers, they were creating music together as The Singing McEntires while McEntire was still in high school.

Being a member of The Singing McEntires gave the singer her first real taste of the spotlight. The trio played at their school and also started performing at clubs on the weekends, with their mother driving them to each appearance. The siblings were often out all night performing. "We played 9 to 1 for our show money," McEntire told CMT News of those early gigs. "Then if there was enough people wanting to hang around, we'd play from 1 to 3 and just pass the hat. So I've been in front of audiences a long time."

Reba McEntire went to college and nearly followed a different career path

Even though Reba McEntire had gotten a taste of show business life as a member of The Singing McEntires, she still went off to college. According to her bio on her website, the singer graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1976 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in music. McEntire told CMT News that she "loved college," but her dad ended up pushing her towards a career in music instead of becoming a teacher. 

McEntire said that her dad encouraged her to get a job singing at the National Finals Rodeo while she was still in college. Figuring she could get in to the rodeo free that way, she applied for the job. McEntire landed the gig in 1974 and caught the attention of country legend Red Steagall, who helped her record her first demo.

McEntire's teaching degree didn't go to waste, though. In 2016, McEntire announced (via People) that she would be giving music lessons through MasterClass for those looking to break into the industry.

A devastating tragedy impacted Reba McEntire's life and career

In 1991, a horrible tragedy shook Reba McEntire's world when seven of her band members and her tour manager died in a plane crash. McEntire dedicated her next album, For My Broken Heart, to the people who died in the crash, as noted by The Boot. In the liner notes, she wrote, "It seems your current emotional status determines what music you'd like to hear. That's what happened on the song selection for this album. If for any reason you can relate to the emotion packed inside these songs, I hope it's a form of healing for all our broken hearts."

The songs on the album may all be sad, but they're what the singer needed to heal from the devastating tragedy. McEntire told The Saturday Evening Post that it was her music that helped pull her through that dark time. 

For My Broken Heart ended up going platinum. McEntire also nabbed an Academy of Country Music award that year for best female vocalist. In a tearful acceptance speech, she dedicated the win to her "eight buddies" who died in the crash. 

Reba McEntire helped pave the way for other female country artists

When Reba McEntire's career was starting out in the 1970s, country music was still dominated by men. McEntire's success helped pave the way for future female country singers. "Well, it was my responsibility," she told Parade of blazing a trail for other women. "It was my duty."

McEntire said that she sees herself as another female country singer in a long line that includes Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Just as the singers who came before her opened doors for artists of her generation, she has always viewed it as her task to pave the way for the generations that come after her. 

Growing up on the ranch and on the rodeo circuit taught McEntire that "we are livin' in a man's world," as she told N Focus. She noted, "So that was something I was used to, and in the world of entertainment, I realized that I was going to have to work harder to get ahead, and so I just accepted that and continued to work hard."

How Reba McEntire really feels about her trademark accent

These days, Reba McEntire's thick Southern drawl is her trademark. While some people feel pressured to lose their accents when entering show business, it never occurred to McEntire to try to be anything other than who she is. "I like my accent," she told Southern Living. "It's done all right for me."

McEntire also encourages others to be true to themselves. In an interview with Cowboys & Indians, she shared the advice she gave to her niece, Garrett, when she moved to California to pursue an acting career. Garrett's agent told her that she needed to dye her hair blonde and also urged her to lose her "thick Oklahoma accent."

McEntire told her niece not to change a thing and to just be herself. "You can't be cookie-cutter," she advised. "You've got to stand out and be different. A good kind of different." 

Reba McEntire "always wanted to be a movie star"

While Reba McEntire has established herself as one of the leading stars in country music, she's also a talented actress. The singer admitted to CMT News that she always had dreams of acting. "I always wanted to be a movie star," she said.

McEntire has starred in films like Tremors and The Little Rascals and even had her own self-titled show, Reba, in the 2000s. The redheaded star also appeared on Broadway in the 2001 revival of Annie Get Your Gun, which she told Playbill "was the hardest job I ever had in my life."

While most fans know her more for her music than for her acting, that may change in the future. The country sensation told Billboard that she would love the chance to return to TV and perhaps star in more movies. One thing McEntire would particularly love to star in is a reboot of Reba. "We've kept working on it and right now, the reruns make it the most popular syndicated show next to M*A*S*H," she said of the show's potential return in a 2018 interview with The Saturday Evening Post.

Reba McEntire went through two painful divorces

Reba McEntire has been married and divorced twice, and she relied on music to help her through both of her divorces. According to Taste of Country, McEntire's 1987 album, The Last One to Know, was nicknamed the "divorce album" by the singer, who poured her emotions about separating from Charlie Battles after 11 years into the album. The record went platinum.

In 2015, the outlet announced that McEntire's divorce from her second husband, Narvel Blackstock, had been finalized. McEntire said that, again, music helped her heal from the heartbreak. "The world doesn't stop for a broken heart, and that's the truth," she told The Saturday Evening Post. "You've got to go on, but you've got to express your pain, and the way I did it was through my music."

McEntire explained that most of the songs she chooses are sad songs for a good reason. "It's relatable," she said. "When a person is sad, they don't listen to happy songs. I guess misery loves company."

Reba McEntire branched into a new genre of music

Recording her gospel album, Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope, helped Reba McEntire through her second divorce. Pouring her emotions into her music paid off, as the album won a Grammy Award for best roots gospel album in 2017. Making the award even more significant was that the album was McEntire's first gospel album ever.

McEntire drew on her childhood to record the album, telling Cowboys & Indians that she chose some of her favorite gospel songs from her youth for the album. McEntire even got her family involved, with her mother and her sisters Susie and Alice singing along with her on the record, and the entire process proved to be healing for McEntire.

While Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope was McEntire's first gospel album, it probably won't be her last. She said that she has enough material for several more gospel albums. 

This is the "silliest thing" Reba McEntire ever did

While it's evident that Reba McEntire is pretty down to earth and has a good sense of humor, one thing that her fans may not know is that she's also a bit of a practical joker. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, she admitted that she's done "so many silly things," when asked what the "silliest thing" she'd ever done was. 

The silliest involved a joke she played on a friend, Vanessa Foster. McEntire revealed that she and Foster were in a bathroom together one night when she had the urge to play a prank on her pal. McEntire stood up on the toilet seat in her stall, reached over the wall, and poured salt onto Vanessa's hair. "That's real hard to get out!" she said. 

When asked why she happened to have the salt shaker with her in the bathroom, McEntire's practical joker side really came out. "Why, I went into the stall with it, with the purpose of pouring it into Vanessa's hair," she answered.

Reba McEntire isn't afraid to talk about her faith

Reba McEntire is deeply religious, and she isn't afraid to let the world know it. While she talks (and sings) about her faith a lot, McEntire isn't trying to preach to anyone — she just wants people to see how happy her faith makes her and hopefully inspire them through her example. "It's a relief to me that God is always taking care of me, always helped me through the hard times, and is always there with me in the great times," she told The Saturday Evening Post.

In an interview with CMT News, McEntire said that her faith had "helped [her] tremendously" over the years and that it is something she has always depended on. The country star is also a big believer in the power of prayer, revealing that she has relied on her faith to guide her career. "On a large business decision, I always talk to God about it," she said. 

This is Reba McEntire's personal style

Reba McEntire may be one of the biggest names in the music industry, but she's not letting that change who she is. At her core, she's still a simple country girl, and her personal fashion style reflects that. For McEntire, style is all about comfort. She told Cowboys & Indians that she can typically be found wearing boots, tennis shoes, or sneakers, blue jeans, and "a comfortable top." While McEntire does have to dress up sometimes to go to awards shows or perform — and usually makes best-dressed lists — she doesn't like to wear heels for very long "because they kill [her] feet."

McEntire's personal style really shines through in her Reba by Justin boot line. "I wanted high-end," she explained of starting the line. "I wanted great quality. I wanted comfort." She also pushed to add tennis shoes and sneakers to the line to give women something more comfortable to change into when they take off their boots. 

Reba McEntire misses this kind of country music

While a lot of modern country music has a crossover feel to it, Reba McEntire prefers the kind of country music she grew up with. In 2019, she released the album Stronger Than the Truth, calling it "a stone-cold country album" filled with the kind of music she grew up singing with The Singing McEntires. The group performed at a lot of venues where people wanted to hear dance music. "And so that's what we have on this album," McEntire told The Boot.

McEntire isn't a fan of what she calls the "bro trend" in country music, which she explained to PBS NewsHour is usually about the "good ol' boys" getting together and going fishing. Instead of "bro music," McEntire would like country to return to its roots. "The country of Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, Mel Tillis," she said. "I miss that kind of country." We wonder what McEntire thinks of popular country singers like Miranda Lambert, Faith Hill, and Kacey Musgraves!