Even by phone, Reba McEntire makes you feel right at home. “Thanks for the visit; I’ve enjoyed visitin’ with you!” the singer drawls, wrapping up our conversation as if I’d just stopped by for buttered grits and a cup of hot coffee.
A music, television, film and theater superstar with a trove of prestigious awards, Reba is enormously famous, but talking to her, you wouldn’t know it. She comes across more like a friend. Fancy? Not so much. And she certainly won’t let her rabid gay following down – she has delighted in a friendship with the LGBT community since the beginning of her 40-year career.
Now, as she releases her 27th studio album, Love Somebody, the country icon’s ready to take some serious stands.
In a chat with Chris Azzopardi, Reba stresses the importance of gay marriage, how sad it is to know that some country artists feel they can’t come out, and her message to parents who can’t accept a child who’s not straight.
Dallas Voice: You grew up in a town with, like, 16 people and lots of cows. I imagine there weren’t a lot of gay people in Chockie, Okla. Reba: Nope, nope. Not at all that I know of, or in high school. I guess in college was the first time I was around any gay people, and they became my friends first and then I found out they were gay, so there ya go! Didn’t change my opinion of ’em; I still liked ’em a lot.
One was a very dear friend of mine who helped me a lot with my singing and my music, and he was just a super sweet, gentle man who loved music with all his heart. I’m pretty sure that was my first introduction, the first time I met anyone who was gay.
As a longtime ally, how important are LGBT equality and same-sex marriage rights to you? Very important. I just went to my first gay wedding a couple of months ago in California for Michael and Steven, my two great friends. They’ve been together for 20 years! I thought that it was not fair, and I didn’t understand why they couldn’t get married. It wasn’t because they just wanted to get married. If one of them had gotten injured and gone to the hospital, the other one couldn’t make decisions for them. It’s very upsetting. It’s not only for convenience or for romantic reasons —it’s for practicality. For practical reasons! I get a kick out of what Dolly said: “Why shouldn’t they get married and be as miserable as the rest of us?”
You don’t seem so miserable in your marriage, though. No, not at all. But I don’t understand why people have a problem with it. I’m a very spiritual person, but I don’t judge. I try not to; I’m only human. To each his own, and everybody is different. God did not make us all the same. So, I just pray for an open mind and a loving heart, and I think that’s all I can do.
In your four decades as a country musician, how much progress do you think the genre has made when it comes to embracing LGBT fans with open arms? Well, I’ve always embraced gay and lesbian fans with both arms. I have a huge gay following!
Absolutely. But country music as a whole — do you see progress when it comes to LGBT equality? Yeah, I do. There are more [artists] speaking out about it, but I can’t really speak for anyone else other than myself.