Fame & Fortune: Reba McEntire

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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.

Bankrate: Your company with Blackstock, Starstruck Entertainment, is more on the nonmusic side of the business. Why was it important to run the nonshow-business side?

Reba McEntire: Well I didn’t run it; Narvel did. He had a management team, he had 12 (or) 13 acts, and we had the publishing, construction and jet company, and the farm. Narvel read this book called “Focus,” and he had this gentleman come to the office and look at the whole corporation. He told Narvel, “You’ve got this product called Reba McEntire, but you are spreading yourself so thin with your attention that her emphasis is watered down and is suffering.” That’s when Narvel let acts go, and I was his only act. It was pretty amazing how things refocused just because of that book, so things happen for a reason.

Bankrate: What has proven to be the biggest challenge so far?

Reba McEntire: Clothes. They are the biggest challenge because you always have to come up with new styles and when they’re not going right, (the question is) how to make it Reba. We found that we were getting into this area of, “That’s not right, that’s not the brand, that’s not Reba.” And it took us a good six months to get everybody convinced that this is not the Reba brand; this is not what Reba wears. My fans know what I wear and won’t wear. And now, everything is doing wonderfully well. Now that we’re into shoes, we’re having to do the same thing. But we learned from clothes that we’ve got to put that Reba thumbprint, that Reba brand on the clothes. Now we have to do the same with the shoes. And that’s very important because my fans will just say, “Reba don’t wear that.”

Bankrate: So you’re trying to capture your personal essence and transfer it into your clothes, shoes and luggage?

Reba McEntire: Right. In the luggage, it’s leather with a belt buckle on it. The buckle is what got me started in the rodeo and ranching family, me singing the national anthem at the National (Finals) Rodeo in 1974. So we put the buckle on the outside of the luggage.

Bankrate: What was your last big splurge?

Reba McEntire: I bought Kelly Clarkson a really pretty diamond and sapphire ring. I wanted to give her something as a remembrance of our tour. So my latest big splurge was on a friend, not on me. Oh, I don’t need a thing, really.

Bankrate: Can you remember your first big splurge?

Reba McEntire: I bought a ring for myself that I still have today. I went to the jewelry store to buy my secretary something for Secretary’s Day — that’s what we called them back then. I bought her a gift and was walking out and saw this ring. I thought it would be a good little commemorative thing for myself, so I bought it. It has four diamonds in it, and I just love it. It’s a really nice memory because I had just finished the movie “Is There Life Out There?”

Bankrate: I know you’ve said that being a good mom was your greatest accomplishment, but any true regrets?

Reba McEntire: I guess I could have been a better mom and spent more time with him, but I think children need to see parents working. I think they need to see parents being together and loving each other. But you have to instill into a child this work ethic. I think the worst thing I’ve done for Shelby is spoiling him. If I could have changed something, we would have lived on a farm and had chickens and cows, and he’d have had to go out and milk and gather the eggs, and we’d had a garden. But things didn’t work out like that. It wasn’t meant to be this time around, so I guess I kind of want my cake and eat it, too.