'Superstar: Reba McEntire' takes a look at country icon's long career

The country icon and 'Big Sky' actress reflects on her success.

Reba McEntire has done it all with records, television and sold-out concert tours yet McEntire says she has no plans of slowing down.

The country music legend speaks about her upbringing, and the ups and downs of her career in a new special "Superstar: Reba McEntire." McEntire says she's still in awe of how far she's come.

"It's like the ripple effect. You throw a pebble in the pond and it just started growing," McEntire said.

The special, now streaming on Hulu, includes pcitures and footage of McEntire through the decades, and reflections from a who's who of country music stars including Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Lainey Wilson, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.

Reba McEntire takes a curtain call at the end of one of her live shows.

McEntire grew up on a farm in Oklahoma and was encouraged to sing by her mother. She performed in school, at town events and even at rodeos, where she sometimes competed as a barrel racer.

McEntire's performance at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo would change her life. Country music star Red Steagall heard the 19-year-old sing the national anthem at the show and invited McEntire and her mother to Nashville to record some demo tapes and try to get a deal.

McEntire, who was in college studying to be a teacher, said she was torn during the drive to Nashville but received some good advice from her mother.

"Mama said, 'Reba, if you don't want to do this, let's just go home. But I'll tell you something, if you decide to go on with this, I'll be living all my dreams through you.' And I said, 'Well, shoot. why didn’t you say that in the beginning? Let's go," she said.

Reba McEntire began recording songs in Nashville in the 1970s.
Courtesy of Reba McEntire

Although agents and producers acknowledged McEntire's talent, she had to contend with a country music scene that was still very much a man's world.

Even with big name acts like Parton and Tammy Wynette, record labels were not promoting as many women artists. McEntire had to put in years of hard work at small smoky clubs and honky tonks before finally finding major success in the early 80s.

In 1985, McEntire teamed up with songwriter Harlan Howard - who presented her with the ballad "Somebody Should Leave."

"It was one of the greatest, saddest country songs I'd ever heard in my life," McEntire recalled.

The single went to the top of the Billboard country singles chart and the song's corresponding album "My Kind of Country," was a hit, putting McEntire in the spotlight. She went on to win “Top New Female Vocalist” at the Academy of Country Music Awards three years in a row, and continued to churn out hits.

McEntire said she was humbled by the reception to her 1992 hit "Is There Life out There?" The music video depicts a working mother who is trying to balance her life and job and earn a college education.

Reba McEntire speaks with fans before a show and celebrates 58 million albums sold.

"People would stand up in the audience while holding their diploma because they had gotten their children raised and gone back to college and gotten their degree," McEntire said. "Oh, I'd cry. It was so amazing how powerful music is."

Soon after, McEntire recorded “Fancy” written by Bobby Gentry with producer Tony Brown. The song became her most popular, enduring hit, and is still a high point of her concerts today.

McEntire would go on to sell 58 million albums, have 25 number-one hits on the Billboard charts, and win three Grammy awards.

But she didn’t stop at music. McEntire has also performed on stage and film throughout the years.

Reba aired for six seasons between 2001 and 2007.
'REBA' Courtesy of 20th Television

In 2001, McEntire starred alongside Nick Jonas in “Annie Get Your Gun” on Broadway, a role Kristin Chenoweth says McEntire was born to play.

In 2001, she starred in the WB network sitcom "Reba" where she played a single mom whose husband left her for a younger woman. The show aired for six seasons and McEntire was nominated for a Golden Globe award.

"She’s the best comedic partner I've worked with," Melissa Peterman, who played Barbra Jean on "Reba," said. "She’s not afraid to let someone else get the laugh because she knows that when they're laughing, we all look amazing. We all shine."

When the show ended, McEntire continued to make new albums, perform live and run numerous businesses- including her own clothing line.

"I’ve admired Reba because of using her 'brand' to expand, and go into other things," Parton said.

Reba McEntire joined the cast of Big Sky in 2022
Michael Moriatis/ABC

McEntire joined the cast of the ABC drama "Big Sky" in 2022 and is enjoying playing a character with more grit compared to her previous roles.

Reba McEntire speaks about her long and successful music and acting career.

At the same time, McEntire interacts with her fans and puts on sold-out concert tours.

McEntire said she's still impressed that her songs resonate with multiple generations. Next year, McEntire is headlining Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl.

"I hope that I have brought something to the table, to help the ones coming up," McEntire said.

She most definitely has.