Reba McEntire, the rodeo star who turned country songbird, knows the importance of her own "brand." The gutsy redhead with more than 20 No. 1 hits to her credit coped with the deaths of eight members of her touring "family" in a plane crash in 1991. She turned that tragedy into a positive, dedicating her performance to them at the Academy Awards that year as well as her next album.
Born in McAlester, Okla., she was raised on a large family ranch and enjoyed traveling with her parents and siblings on the rodeo circuit where her father competed. Her dad, Clark, was named World Champion Steer Roper three times. Reba, now 54, credits her early childhood with the fortitude and strength that has brought her success and happiness today.
McEntire's first hit single, "I Don't Want to be a One-Night Stand," hit the country charts at No. 88 in 1976. Two years later, she recorded her first top-20 single, "Three Sheets in the Wind."
It wasn't until her break-out hit, "Just a Little Love," in 1984 that she hit mainstream country. "The Queen of Country," as she is sometimes called, is known for her lively pop-tinged ballads and flashy stage performances. But McEntire veered off the flamboyant path last year when she toured with Kelly Clarkson, and her stage presence reflected a change in the times. A casual, more subdued and sophisticated McEntire belted out her chart-topping hits along with the much junior Clarkson.
McEntire has never been one to stand still. She took to the Broadway stage in "Annie Get Your Gun" in 2001, though she had not done theater before. That same year, her TV sitcom "Reba" took off. Reba also has started her own clothing, footwear and luggage lines.
Last month, she took to the stage with other country-music greats in the inaugural concert at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Bankrate caught up with McEntire recently and talked with her about her singing and acting career and the businesses she has built with husband, Narvel Blackstock.
Bankrate: What would you say has proved the greatest single challenge in juggling a successful marriage, motherhood and career?
Reba McEntire: The single most important thing is that Narvel and I had to like each other to go through all the difficulties in the music world and all that. If I was married to a man who was not only running the family, but also running my business, and I didn't like him, oh, my gosh, that would be miserable.
Bankrate: What have you found that makes everything work?
Reba McEntire: What makes it all work? It just does, golly dang. Time management is a key. I have a lot of lists all over the house, reminding me of what to do and when to do it. I have a great support team that helps remind me of things, too, (such as) "You have an interview, you have to pick up Shelby (her son), you've got to be here then," a great team.
Bankrate: In mid-2001, you released "I'm a Survivor," which became a major hit for you and went gold. What about that particular song appealed to you?
Reba McEntire: Well, it's kind of like the song "Is There Life Out There?" There are a lot of survivors in this world, whether they are cancer survivors or survived a bad marriage, survived a heartbreaking love affair, survived their parents' dying or losing a child. There are a lot of survivors. When I sing that song on stage, it's amazing how people's eyes sparkle, and they stand up and say, "Yes, that's me!" It really moved me the first time I heard it. It is so amazing at concerts how women will say that's my song.