Editor’s note: CMT Giants: Reba debuts Saturday (Nov. 18) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
HOLLYWOOD — If anyone ever doubted Reba McEntire’s reach in the entertainment business, one look across the red carpet outside the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard would have put the issue immediately to rest.
On one side of the velvet rope were some of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood and Nashville who gathered in Reba’s honor. On the other side were the Los Angeles press corps who — despite their general “been there, done that” attitude — actually seemed excited to be there, too.
There was a genuine energy in the air as country legends like Dolly Parton and Barbara Mandrell joined Hollywood stars Megan Mullally, James Denton, Andie McDowell and Dakota Fanning to honor our favorite redhead in CMT Giants: Reba, a musical special that spotlights Reba’s “can-do” spirit and her incredible successes in music, film, television and theater.
“I like girls that are cocky and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Mandrell said before the show. “And that’s her attitude. So I love it, and I’m so proud of her.”
Reba’s tenacity and talent were common themes during the three-hour taping. Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles all say they found their way to musical success down the path that Reba blazed. Hill, in particular, benefited from Reba’s business smarts after working for the singer’s Nashville-based production company, Starstruck Entertainment.
“On the verge of getting a record deal, I started working there, and I was able to see firsthand the greatest performer and classiest woman in the business in a way that most people will never get to see,” Hill told CMT Insider. “The way she and [husband Narvel Blackstock] worked together and handled her business, I learned so much. That time there for me was just invaluable.”
Yearwood, who performed an emotional rendition of “If I Had Only Known,” says Reba gave her some valuable career advice when she first signed to MCA Records.
“Things like, ‘You know, you can own your photo shoots and you can lease back the rights for people to use your stuff. You need to own all your stuff,'” Yearwood said. “And I’m like, ‘I didn’t know I could do that, you know?’ She was the one who told me these things, and it was great wisdom coming from a lady who just did it out of the kindness of her heart.”
Backstage at the Kodak Theater, LeAnn Rimes called her appearance on the Giants special a “therapy session.” She broke down onstage while singing, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” a song Reba recorded in 1991 in honor of her emotionally reserved father.
“I’m singing this really emotional song, and not once did I ever think that her parents would be sitting there, and it’s about her father,” Rimes explained. “My dad meant so much to me. He still means so much to me, but especially as a little girl. I’ve always felt this great connection with Reba and looked up to her since I was 2 years old. I don’t know, all of these emotions came up in me, and I just started bawling.”
On the flip side, pop star Kelly Clarkson gave a sassy performance of “Why Haven’t I Heard From You.” The American Idol winner has become fast friends with Reba, guest starring on the Reba TV sitcom this season. Clarkson has also recorded a cut for Reba’s duets album which is due in stores next year.
“Somebody that can handle all this pressure, who is that great of a person and just that on top of things, it’s an inspiration,” Clarkson said. “It’s hard to keep face and to carry it all sometimes, especially when you’re young and you’re starting out. She knows that because she worked for the ground up.”
Just moments after the show was over, a clearly emotional Reba walked into the backstage area wiping her eyes and saying, “That was too much fun.” When asked about the show of support and praise — particularly from her fellow female performers — Reba said she had never been so flattered.
“I’m not surprised because they know I would do it for them, too, because that’s how we are,” she said. “We’re very close. My heart can’t express how I feel. It was overwhelming.”