Having reigned for four decades on the world’s entertainment stage, Reba McEntire continues to set her sights high: launching a new beauty brand, releasing a new album, and, as always, inspiring strength and compassion for women everywhere.
Very few performers in modern history have achieved the diversity and success that Reba McEntire has. For more than four decades, this petite red-headed fireball has not only earned a place as one of the most successful female recording artists in the world, she has earned the adoration and respect of women and men alike, whose heartstrings resonate with her ballads and love songs of heartache, pain and joy. With a popularity that has spanned generations, Reba McEntire is unlike any entertainer—not easily pegged to one talent or another. She has successfully navigated the worlds of music, movies, television, the Broadway stage, book authoring, and now, a fashion, apparel and beauty brand whose track record continues to run strong after ten years.
Reba’s career track would not have been easy to predict considering the Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl started life on an 8,000 acre ranch, following in the dusty boot steps of an esteemed rodeo lineage. Her father, Clark Vincent McEntire, was the World Champion Steer Roper in 1957, 1958, and 1961, an honor her grandfather John McEntire also earned in 1934. Reba herself would embrace the family tradition by participating in barrel racing competitions from the time she was eleven years old until she was twenty-one. Rodeo is in her blood and it is perhaps fitting that she was “discovered” by Red Steagall after singing the National Anthem at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, a performance that lit the fuse for an American dream-come-true career that has stood the test of time.
Reba McEntire has lived a life of change and growth and this year, like almost every year in her long and stellar career, that change and growth is abundant. Reba turned sixty this year and released Love Somebody, her twenty-seventh studio album. She also announced the separation from her husband of twenty-six years. 2015 also saw the launch of Reba’s new beauty line that she continues to develop and grow with her long-time makeup artist Brett Freedman. Catching up with the awarding winning entertainer to discuss this new, non-musical venture was enlightening; this writer was impressed by the passion she has for her foray into fashion and beauty products, and the retail business in general. After even a short conversation with Reba, this much is obvious: Reba’s success is no accident. She is mission oriented, astute, on target, preternaturally charming and enthusiastically prepared. The epitome of a midwestern American work ethic steeped in a ranching and rodeo tradition, Reba McEntire is the definition of the American Dream come true.
By Ken Amorosano
COWGIRL: You started Reba Style more than ten years ago and it’s still going strong. To what do you attribute this success?
REBA: Ten years is a long time to have a clothing line and we’re really thrilled that Dillards stayed with us through thick and thin. That’s a great store, a great family run business that we teamed up with ten years ago, so glad we did. I guess the thing that made it continue is number one, they didn’t quit on us. Number two was trying to find what our lady likes to wear and we found out that our lady really does like to buy clothes that have a lot of color, a lot of bling on ‘em. So we always have beads or crochet or some kind of adornment on our clothes and they really like it. We were really struggling there for a while and then we all came up with this sublimation t-shirt and that just really put our line into high gear. It’s trial and error on everything we do and thank God it started working and turned around and our lady comes back month after month to see our clothes and we really appreciate them.
COWGIRL: What has the overall experience been for you in the fashion world?
REBA: It’s really good. It started off real rocky because I’m not a fashion guru. I didn’t know any of the brands or the other styles. When we were in New York (doing Annie Get your Gun in 2001) I went to a fashion show and a reporter asked me what’s one of my favorite designers and I said Levi’s. That’s about all I knew growing up in the rodeo world. That was the only thing that came into my head. It is fun. It’s different and it is unusual for a person in the music business to have a clothing line for ten years so I am very grateful that I have gotten to do this this long.
COWGIRL: Do you use feedback from your customers and fans?
REBA: Absolutely. If we don’t do that we wouldn’t be in this business still. Yeah. When we know that they like bling, we put more bling on it. If we know they like fringe, which is a huge trend right now, that’s what we’re gonna do is we put more fringe on it. And we do go with the trends. We do stay in that cycle, but also we listen to our customer, and to my fans. They might say, oh, your clothes are too expensive at Dillards…I say ‘girlfriend…haven’t you watched Dillards? They have the greatest sales in the business and so you have to just watch and get in there and if it’s too expensive for you when the clothes first come out, wait three weeks and they’ll be on sale.’
COWGIRL: What are some of your favorite items from the line that shoppers can buy now?
REBA: When we design something and I look at it, that’s the clothes for three to four months down the line. You have to be so much ahead of the game. I have a meeting in the morning and I think that’s for March of next year. So when the clothes come out I’m like ‘oh, I kinda remember that’ because we are so far in advance that we have to approve the clothes. But I always love the tops, the sweaters. The sweaters I think are my favorite. The feel of them. They’re soft, they’re not scratchy. I love ‘em. And I wear the tops all the time. The jeans are comfortable. Yeah. I love ‘em.
COWGIRL: When you are choosing clothing, are you actually getting involved in the design?
REBA: When we started off I would sit there and for three days pick out prints…just prints…and then the buttons, and then the fabric and then the silhouette. I’ve been working with my designers for so long. Josephine DeMarco at Soulstar-she knows what I like. She knows what I don’t like. But we also know what sells. What our customer wants which is
the most important thing. So maybe I wouldn’t like a dolman sleeve so much, but I know my lady does, so we go with that. So no. I do not have to sit through the designer meetings. They do a finished product—get it back from the factory—and they bring it to me or I go to New York and then I say ‘that looks great—the color palette’s wonderful—I love the fabric—I don’t like that—that’s my least favorite—let’s take that out’—and then they bring that whole line that I’d just seen and they take it to Dillards and Dillards chooses the ones they want to buy.
Embellished turtleneck, $88, Faux suede skirt, $128, both by REBA, dillards.com.
Turquoise necklace by Federico, $14,800,
Turquoise belt, $9,038, both at Samsville Gallery, samsvillegallery.com;
Premium beaver hat by O’Farrell Hat Co., $1,200, ofarrellhatco.com.
Photography by Steve Thornton
COWGIRL: From the clothing line you have also expanded into home, luggage and footwear. How involved are you in the conceptual design of these products and where do these inspirations originate?
REBA: Yeah I do. I give them input—’hey guys this zipper is on the wrong side—I’d like it if it had more compartments or smaller compartments—that way I can put my stuff in it and when I get to the hotel I open it up and know exactly where everything is.’ Now am I going to sit down with a designer and design it all? No. I don’t do that. But one thing that I have to say about the success that I have had over the years is letting people do what they know how to do and I stay out of it. I might comment once in awhile but I go to people who I know—know what they’re doing. They’re the experts.
REBA: For [photo] shoots I’ve been working with some of the best makeup artists in the world and I’ve gotten really great advice, firsthand, on what formulas and textures work best. And like the clothes, I felt like I had a pretty strong idea about what I really liked and I get to bring all of my favorites to life. Brett came to me about doing the Deluxesticks and I thought it was a great idea, you know he’s got his own line—here again—he’s got the expertise—he’s the makeup artist—he’s the one that does my hair and makeup for TV and things so I went for it. We just had a blast with it.
COWGIRL: What inspired the three initial colors?
REBA: I started talking with Brett about what shades a woman would wear and what they would need as a mainstay in their makeup bag. We decided that a real good healthy looking pink is really nice, and then a peach is really a staple for me, you know I’m a redhead. And then something that they can wear in the evening—a red—or a good pop of color during the day. And these shades have a certain pop of color and they’re universally flattering and they’re true staples for your makeup bag.
COWGIRL: The lipstick products have more than color involved. What other elements go into the products and why did you choose them?
REBA: I gave Brett a lot of feedback on why I liked certain products. I don’t like lead in the lip liners. I’m not a health fanatic, but I try to stay as healthy as possible. And because he does have a makeup line of his own he gives me deeper insights into why certain formulas click with me. So it was a great education for me too. He knows what I like so it cuts down on the development of process and he knows how I like things to feel and how they wear on my lips and the smell is really important because it’s so close to your nose. And even the taste—and I don’t ever hold back with feedback whether it’s good or bad in the makeup chair when he’s doing my makeup and it’s served us well with the Reba Beauty. The Deluxesticks, I wanted them to be paraben-free with no artificial sweeteners. I wanted the colors to look good but be healthy. They’re shiny balms and I wanted to put Stevia in it instead of any kind of artificial sweeteners. Because I use Stevia all the time in my iced tea and hot drinks.
COWGIRL: What can consumers expect next from the line?
REBA: Right now we’re focusing on staples in a makeup bag. Essentially—what can you carry with you. We’re kind of moving around the face. We started with the lips and next up is what we’re calling the Center Stage Smoky Eye Palette. I get a lot of feedback from my own stage eye makeup. We decided to put all the five shades in one palette that way you don’t have to dig out your makeup bag for different ones. Each palette will come with a how-to guide with Brett showing the steps. We’ll even have a video on our website. I’m more low key with my day-to-day makeup looks so I promise you this, I’ll be using this guide too.
COWGIRL: Your new album Love Somebody, released this past April, is your twenty-seventh studio album. On this record, in songs like “That’s When I Knew” and “I’ll Go On,” you appear to be reflecting on this particular time in your personal life. Are these songs coincidence, or do they reflect some of your personal feelings?
REBA: It’s total coincidence. The thing in my personal life was not even going on when I recorded these songs. So maybe it was foreseeing the future.
COWGIRL: What songs on the new album resonate most with your personal feelings today?
REBA: There are a couple that really resonate with me now. Number one is obvious “Living Ain’t Killed Me Yet.” I’ve been through a lot. Ups and downs, but my faith in God has gotten me through all the hard parts. It makes my day so much brighter when I wake up in the morning and thank the Lord for the sun shining and I can still crawl out of bed and walk to the bathroom and get out. My church is out the front of my door when I go out and walk in nature and I absolutely love it. My faith is really strong—got me through a lot. Another one that really helps me and I love to listen to is “Pray for Peace.” I mean, it gets me off of my problems. It makes that ‘me, me, me’ factor go away. To pray for the people who need my prayers sent up. If I ever think I have problems—watch the news, listen to friends—everybody needs prayers, and help, and a shoulder to lean on every once in awhile and an ear to tell their stories and kind of vent every once in awhile. I do a lot of praying for people and especially for peace. We need that in this world. ù
Reba Beauty products are available at reba.com