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Superstar singer Reba McEntire has cemented her place as a legend of country music. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone has always responded well to every choice she’s made in her career. In fact, she said some country fans seemingly go out of their way to tell her in upfront manners what they think of her.  

Reba McEntire in a silver and black dress, speaking into a microphone and holding one hand up
Reba McEntire | Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA

Reba McEntire’s fans can be ‘so painfully honest’

In the 1994 autobiography, Reba: My Story, McEntire wrote about the measures some fans took to tell her what they thought of her.

“Many country fans tell me to my face what they like and dislike about my music and show,” she noted. “They send their opinions by mail if they can’t see me personally.”

She said their judgments can be “so painfully honest” and recalled a time when two 12-year-old girls told her that her legs looked “too scrawny” in a pair of shorts she wore to a celebrity golf tournament.

Reba McEntire upset some fans by performing ‘Respect’ at the Country Music Awards

McEntire also mentions a time in 1988 when she decided to take a chance to make some noise. She was to perform at the Country Music Awards, but she wasn’t expecting to win. So, her hope became to make the papers.

First, she decided to perform her rendition of “Respect,” by Aretha Franklin. Next, she decided to change up her classic style. “To perform the song, I wore a tight, black leather outfit that was a dramatic change from the formal gowns that I’d always worn for the awards,” she wrote.  

She noted how the reaction to her performance was “strong,” particularly from people who felt her style and choice of music was inappropriate for the CMA stage.

“But the day after the awards, there we were! A color picture in the Nashville newspaper,” she wrote, illustrating the effectiveness of her plan. And for the curious, a clip of her performing her country version of “Respect” in concert is available on YouTube.

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McEntire shared in her book that her loyal fans know she’ll always listen to them, even if they are criticizing her. “If I get a suggestion that’s constructive, I use it,” she noted.

But when it came to performing “Respect” and songs like it, the “Fancy” singer didn’t feel she was turning her back on country music by including a variety at her shows. To illustrate, she shared a story about a friend who accused her of “leaving” her fans before that friend had even heard “a note of new material.”

In response, McEntire encouraged them to watch and listen before forming an opinion. Afterwards, she said her friend told her, “I’ll never doubt you again.”

McEntire went on to say she “honest to God” never thought she’d be accused of such a thing as turning her back on country fans. “Stretching out a little is good for any artist …” she concluded.