Life Lessons With Reba

"I’ve been poor, and I’ve been rich. But out of all of it, I like to be happy."

Alanna Nash
Getty Reba McEntire Nashville Portrait
John Shearer

Country star Reba McEntire doesn’t mind mentioning that she’s 61 years old. Why? Because she’s not only earned the experience that informs the delivery of her 35 number one hits, but the singer and actress is still out there living life to the fullest—working the road, playing Las Vegas, and recording new music, such as her third holiday album, “My Kind of Christmas,” for Cracker Barrel. But, through it all, Reba's garnered some valuable advice. We sat down with the star to talk about the lessons she's learned.

Q: You’ve been so successful. What does success mean to you?
A: Success to people is always different. To me, it’s being happy. And having my health. If you don’t have your health, or you aren’t happy, it doesn’t matter how successful you are with money or materialistic things. That stuff doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been poor, and I’ve been rich. But out of all of it, I like to be happy.

Q: What values have you stayed true to in your career?
A: When you say you’re going to do something, do it. Be honest. Treat all people equal. I try not to judge, but I do. When you’re at a dinner, and you see how people treat the wait staff, that tells you a lot about a person.

Q: Was there anything about growing up in Oklahoma that you thought you needed to sacrifice to succeed?
A: Nope. Everything I learned in Oklahoma—hard work, and taking direction—has helped me. Daddy used to tell me to sit on my horse in the gate until he got back. So I sat there until Daddy got back. It wasn’t, “Well, I’m cold,” or, “I’ve got to use the bathroom.” If you had to use the bathroom, you just got off your horse (laugh), and got back on. The director on the “Reba” show said, “You sure are directable.” I said, “My daddy made sure of that.” And Mama did, too, especially when it came to cleaning my room.

Q: Let's talk about being a Southerner a little bit more, including your years in Nashville. What does being a Southerner mean to you?
A: I hear that word, and I think “warmth.” And I don’t mean temperature. You feel good being a Southerner. And I’ve got a lot of Northern friends, too, and I love going up North. But the South is hospitality. You know, “C’mon in.” When you visit people, they say, “You like something to drink?” whether it’s water, or iced tea or a [Seagram’s] VO and 7. That’s hospitality. And you get that in the South.

Q: You are 61 years of age now. What does that number signify to you?
A: It means that I’ve made it a long time on this earth. Mama’s still got 30 years on me, a little under 30, and if I can continue to kick up my heels and have as good a time as she’s had throughout her years, I’ll be doing very well. I’ll be happy with that.

Read more about Reba's childhood on an 8000-acre farm in Oklahoma and how she's keeping up with the industry.