Reba McEntire has had an astoundingly successful career. Ever since the ’70s she’s been at the top of the country music game. She’s one of the best-selling artists of any genre. She’s acted too, most notably in Tremors and her own self-titled sitcom Reba. But the Queen of Country’s personal life hasn’t gone so well.
McEntire’s first marriage took place before she made it big. In 1976 she wed Charlie Battles, a successful steer-wrestler ten years her senior. The relationship began well, with the two owning a ranch in McEntire’s home state, Oklahoma. But once she started to make it big, their romance started to fade.
Battles managed McEntire, but the two of them had different ideas about her career path. McEntire was winning awards and accolades, but her husband wanted her to stay behind on the ranch. The singing star decided she was having none of it. In 1987 she left him and moved to Nashville to chase further success.
McEntire would always be candid about choosing her career over her marriage. The album she released in 1987, The Last One To Know, hinted at the pain of their divorce. Even though the songs aren’t specifically about her and Battles, the subtext is clear. The album was another success, selling over a million copies and going platinum.
McEntire didn’t remain single for long, however. She got another manager and she married him! Her groom was Narvel Blackstock, a one-time steel guitarist from Texas. In 1989 they tied the knot on a boat in a private ceremony on Lake Tahoe, between Nevada and California. They formed a new company, Starstruck Entertainment, and set about making McEntire an even bigger celebrity.
Blackstock had been married once before, and already had three children – Chassidy, Shawna and Brandon. But the couple decided they wanted a child together as well. In 1990, son Shelby Steven McEntire Blackstock was born; he grew up to become a professional racing car driver.
But McEntire always treated her stepchildren on an equal footing with her biological child. “I don’t consider Brandon, Chassidy and Shawna step-children, I claim them all,” she told country music website The Boot in 2010. And when Brandon married McEntire’s fellow superstar singer Kelly Clarkson in 2013, she was absolutely delighted.
In 2012 McEntire spoke to AARP magazine about how happy she was. She made time for her husband and kids even while busy managing her career, and it was working wonderfully. “I love what I’m doing, and I love me in my skin,” she told the publication. “I am a very grateful happy camper.”
But unfortunately, McEntire’s wedded bliss was not destined to last. In August 2015, the singing star announced on her website that she and Blackstock had been separated for “the past few months” and that it was “the end of their marriage.”
Fans of McEntire were completely blindsided. Rolling Stone magazine noted that McEntire and Blackstock were the third musical supercouple to announce a divorce in just two weeks. The Blake Shelton-Miranda Lambert marriage and the Gwen Stefani-Gavin Rossdale nuptials had also come to abrupt ends. But it transpired that McEntire herself may have been equally shocked.
At least it seemed that the couple remained friends. On December 18, 2015 McEntire posted a group photo which included Blackstock. “So proud of these people. They have been with me for over 20 years,” she wrote. And in the comments below she announced the final news. “Narvel and I are divorced. It was final October 28,” she said.
McEntire’s fanbase showed their support in replies. Some cheekily proposed marriage to her; others implied that the breakup must have been Blackstock’s fault. McEntire set them straight. “Thanks for all of those sweet messages. Narvel and I are friends. We have always been,” she wrote.
But it took until March 2016 for McEntire to open up about how much the divorce had hurt her. She spoke to Cody Alan on CMT Radio. “The divorce was not my idea. I didn’t want it in any shape, form or fashion,” she said. “So it was really hard to make the adjustment… I just want everybody to be happy in their lives, because our lives are too short to be miserable.”
“I just thought it was the best thing to take my marbles and go play somewhere else, is what daddy used to always say,” the singing star went on, adding her Christian faith had brought her solace. “The thing that got me through this change in life, is number one, God,” McEntire explained to CMT Radio. “I prayed every day to help me have the strength to move one foot in front of the other.”
McEntire said a similar thing in a March 2016 interview with Sunday news magazine Parade. “God’s way is the best way. And it seems to me that Narvel is happier and I’m in a really good state of mind. It’s taken me this time to pull through why and how.” More cryptically, she added, “I believe that to forgive is easier than forget. I can never forget some of what he did.”
But things have since got better. In January 2018, news broke that McEntire had a new boyfriend, and had in fact been dating him for five months. His name is Anthony “Skeeter” Lasuzzo, a geologist and photographer. McEntire met him on holiday at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he was her tour guide.
In January 2018, McEntire spoke to Taste of Country magazine about what lay ahead. She told them that although she found embarking on a new relationship terrifying, she was optimistic. “Skeeter and I get along really well. We love the mountains… He was in the oil and gas business, so being from Oklahoma, I was very familiar with that,” she said.
And McEntire didn’t lose out on family life either. Even Kelly Clarkson, technically no longer a relation by marriage, continued to treat her as a friend and maternal figure. In April 2018 they performed McEntire’s ’90s track “Does He Love You” together at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Beforehand, Clarkson spoke on camera about her relationship with her ex-mother-in-law. “We first sang this song 16 years ago right here in Las Vegas. I was terrified. I sucked, she was so nice, though, afterwards,” she said. “She’s become more than just a dear friend, she’s family.”
After everything, McEntire’s career is still thriving. She’s the new Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials, she’ll be headlining a 2018 benefit concert in Dallas, and there’s even talk of reviving her sitcom Reba. Her children, and hopefully her new love, will be by her side throughout!