Country star Reba McEntire has been breaking people’s hearts with her dazzling music for decades. Behind the scenes, though, McEntire’s personal life has had as many ups and downs as the doleful subjects of many classic country songs. The singer went through an agonizing split, for instance, and she likely didn’t expect to find love again. But from that all-time low, McEntire has managed to rise up and embark on a new life-changing journey – with the man of her dreams.
This was no doubt an unexpected turn of events. After all, McEntire suffered a great deal of pain following her divorce from Narvel Blackstock. In March 2016 the star told Cody Alan of Country Music Television (CMT), “The divorce was not my idea. I didn’t want it in any shape, form or fashion.” She went on, “It was really hard to make the adjustment when someone’s not happy. I just want everybody to be happy in their lives because our lives are too short to be miserable.”
McEntire went into more detail during an interview with Parade magazine that same month. And the singer revealed how the two-year divorce proceedings had rattled her to her foundations. She said, “I have a long list and so many questions for God. Why did this happen? And how did you allow that?” So it seems as though McEntire’s spirits were close to rock bottom at this point.
Yet it wasn’t the first time that McEntire had suffered through a divorce. Her first marriage was to Charlie Battles, whom she wed in 1976. The union lasted 11 years – and the 1987 divorce led to an unpleasant public backlash. Two years after the split, McEntire told People magazine, “I have talked so much about my private life [in the past] that when I got this divorce, I got lambasted.”
Still, McEntire quickly got back in the saddle. In 1989 she married Blackstock, her manager. The pair then became a power couple of the country music world, running the company Starstruck Entertainment together. McEntire also gained three stepchildren from the marriage, and the couple had a son of their own.
McEntire gained a close friend via marriage as well. This was fellow singer Kelly Clarkson, who married Blackstock’s son Brandon in 2013. While appearing on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in April 2015, Clarkson described McEntire as “one of my heroes.” She also revealed that McEntire is “amazing” and “fun” – particularly when she’s had a drink or two.
Tellingly, though, McEntire channeled her experience of marriage and separation into a song called “The Day She Got Divorced.” She told Good Morning America in 2010 that the track “talks about going through a divorce, having children, helping your buddies out, finding the right guy in their life, and then telling the guy he’s treated you bad.” And, unfortunately, the singer would be facing those familiar strains herself just five years later.
Yes, in early August 2015, McEntire and Blackstock released a statement via McEntire’s official website. It revealed that their marriage had run its course and had come to an end after over two decades together. And although the press release was formally worded, it seems that this separation was a long time coming.
The release read, “Narvel Blackstock and Reba McEntire have announced that they have been separated for the past few months, after 26 years of marriage. Despite this being the end of their marriage, they continue to support each other. They have worked together for 35 years and will continue to do so. They have asked that you respect their privacy during this time.”
According to an anonymous insider who spoke to Us Weekly, though, the only reason the couple managed to stay together for so long was due to the support of friends. In fact, Us Weekly reported that Clarkson had tried to keep McEntire and Blackstock in good standing. The source said, “They’ve been living apart for two years. Kelly urged them not to split, and she’s the reason they didn’t split earlier.”
Yet McEntire’s friend Melissa Peterson told Entertainment Tonight that the singer was coping with the divorce okay. Peterson said, “I’ve talked to her, and she’s doing great. Beyond what she said in her statement, I love her and wish her all my love, and that’s all I can say right now.” The story was far from over, though.
In December 2015 McEntire confirmed on Facebook that the divorce had gone through. She wrote, “Narvel and I are divorced. It was final[ized on] Oct[ober] 28.” Lots of people offered their sympathies, and McEntire responded to them: “Thanks for all of those sweet messages. Narvel and I are friends. We have always been.”
But, as her comments to Parade and CMT highlighted, McEntire wrestled with her feelings in private. She said to 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. And there’s been a lot between us and I believe that to forgive is easier than forget.”
Hinting at something beneath the surface, McEntire went on, “I can never forget some of what he did. But going on with life is what’s really important. And my faith helped me with that. I think about what God wants me to do. I focus on that. Faith is really important. It keeps me sane, and it keeps me hopeful.”
At the end of the interview, McEntire sought to reassure her fans, saying, “I’m totally enjoying life and having the time of my life… I do want my fans to know that I’m very happy. They worry about me because of the divorce. I’m very happy, and I’m glad that Narvel is happy. What more can I ask for?”
Yet a select group were certain that Blackstock had been unfaithful to McEntire. In fact, rumor had it that Blackstock had cheated on McEntire with her friend Laura Putty Stroud. An anonymous source told website Page Six in 2016, “It’s unclear when they started dating. The word on the street is that they’re getting married.”
Throughout all this, though, McEntire remained strong. Her faith helped her, as she told FOX411 Country in August 2016. “Without [faith], I don’t know what I would have done,” she said. “I guess I would have been a puddle on the floor. You’ve got to have somebody to talk to. And God is my therapist and best friend.”
Then, in December 2016, McEntire sat down with Entertainment Tonight and said she was open to finding love again – but in no rush. She explained to Nancy O’Dell, “I’m just taking it one day at a time and loving life and enjoying being with my friends and family as much as I possibly can.” She added that she had been “blindsided” by the divorce.
McEntire went on, “I think it’s always nice to have somebody to go to dinner with and fall in love with. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.” She also said that her son with Blackstock, car racer Shelby, had advised her – as a 61-year-old woman – “not to date anyone younger than 50.”
Yet McEntire could be forgiven for thinking that, after her painful divorce, she wouldn’t find love again for a long time. But fate, it seemed, had other plans for her. In 2017, while McEntire was on vacation at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, her friend Kix Brooks – of Brooks & Dunn – introduced her to a man called Anthony “Skeeter” Lasuzzo.
Then, in January 2018, McEntire took Lasuzzo to the Grammy Awards. That same month, McEntire told Taste of Country how they had met. “Kix and Barbara Brooks thought it’d be a good idea, since we were gonna be up around Yellowstone, to get Kix’s best friend’s wife’s brother to show us around,” she said.
That proved to be Lasuzzo – a widower, wildlife photographer and retired oil geologist. He led McEntire and her friends around the area, showing them the animals and having dinner with the visitors. But then, McEntire told the website, “I made another trip to Jackson Hole, because I just love it up there, and he asked me out for a date – just the two of us. And we’ve been dating ever since.”
McEntire admitted that starting a new relationship was scary for her – but that she was still thrilled. “Skeeter and I get along really well. We love the mountains. Everything that we have encountered… we love going to plays in New York,” she excitedly informed Taste of Country.
McEntire and Lasuzzo had something else in common, McEntire explained. “He was in the oil and gas business, so being from Oklahoma, I was very familiar with that,” she said. “As a matter of fact, my very first job other than singing was checking records with an oil lease company! It’s so funny.”
In April 2018 friend Melissa Peterman told Closer Weekly how thrilled she was that McEntire had found love. “I see her completely at ease with him. He adores her wholeheartedly, which is what we all want, right?” she said. She went on, “He is a confident guy. And when you’re hanging with the crazy crew that Reba has, you gotta be a good sport and be able to roll, and he totally does!”
McEntire gave an interview to The Saturday Evening Post in October 2018 and talked about how far she had come since her divorce. Referring to that difficult time, she said, “I think that kind of split is hard on anybody. I’m no different than anyone who’s ever gone through a divorce or a death. Even if you’re in the public eye, the hurt’s the same.”
She went on, “I don’t have any secrets, because people pretty much know everything. Time has passed, and I’m a happy camper. I have a new love in my life, and I have done things that I couldn’t have gotten to do before, so I’m always a firm believer that timing is everything and everything happens for a reason.”
Some things still worried McEntire, though, and the breakup still hurt her. She explained, “There’s a lot of things I miss. I worry for my family because a divorce hurts more than just the two people who get divorced. It’s a ripple effect.” She went on, “It’s everybody that is involved. It changes everybody’s lives.”
But Lasuzzo has been a massive help. McEntire praised Skeeter’s straightforwardness and sense of fun, in particular. She added, “I think being very secure in his own skin makes it a lot easier to deal with the things he has to deal with for me. He’s a very confident, secure man, and so he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody, and we have a wonderful time with all the stuff that we’re getting to do.”
The man who introduced McEntire to Lasuzzo also thought he was good for her. In February 2019 Kix Brooks told radio DJ Blair Garner, “He’s a great guy. They’re having fun. He’s dragging her out there, taking her beyond her comfort zone in some things. You see her all wrapped up in Jackson Hole in the Tetons chasing elk around.”
In April 2019, after McEntire and Lasuzzo had been together for some time, the famed country singer also told People magazine all about her new beau. “We’re totally in love – absolutely,” she said. “I wouldn’t put up with somebody for two years if I wasn’t in love with ’em!”
But she was surprised, McEntire said, that new love had come into her life so fast. She had met Lasuzzo, she told People, at a time when she was “not looking, not even interested.” So while her latest album, Stronger Than the Truth, is all about heartbreak, McEntire’s own love life is going fine.
Lasuzzo even has a house located right near where McEntire’s family lives, the singer told People. She explained, “He lives right there on the lake [Texoma], got a beautiful home. And then when we go to Jackson Hole, we snowshoe and walk and get into nature… [We] go up and see my momma. Yeah, it’s my backyard.”
Lasuzzo knew how to handle the celebrity world, McEntire also said. For instance, whenever they made public appearances together, they would “color coordinate a little bit.” And there was more. “He was in oil and gas, and he gave speeches and talks and dealt with the public, and so he understands a lot more than someone else might… It came natural for him,” McEntire explained.
McEntire told People that Lasuzzo’s wife, Marolyn, had died in 2017 after fighting breast cancer for seven years. She left behind four children: Blake, Kristi, Holli and Tyler. Sharing offspring is something of which McEntire has previous experience, of course. She feels that Blackstock’s kids are essentially hers as well.
McEntire said as much during an interview with The Boot in 2010. “I don’t consider Brandon, Chassidy and Shawna [Blackstock’s children from a previous relationship] step-children … I claim them all,” she said. The same goes for the next generation of Blackstock kids: McEntire considers them her grandchildren.
At about the same time as her People interview, McEntire also gave one to Entertainment Tonight. Again, she gushed about her new boyfriend. “We’re having a great time, traveling the world and seeing things and having fun,” she said. “I’m still working and loving what I do. I’m at a time in my life where I’m very grateful, very content [and] very calm. Love it.”
And in April 2019 McEntire also spoke to Country Living. She talked about how she and Lasuzzo loved to travel. “Last year we were in Africa, Italy and Iceland. We want to go to New Zealand,” she said. And she added that Lasuzzo would be joining her and Kelly Clarkson at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards that year.
Clarkson seemed to like Lasuzzo as well – and as McEntire’s daughter-in-law and good friend, her opinion was prized. TV channel Extra spoke to Clarkson at the ACM Awards, and she said of Lasuzzo, “He’s cool, love him, our whole family does. He’s a great human and just a solid dude.”
Unfortunately, though, the love was not to last. In October 2019 McEntire admitted to Us Weekly that the pair had decided to call time on their relationship. “Skeeter and I broke up in May, so, unfortunately, we will not be spending that time together,” she said. “We still talk, and we’re friends, but just decided to go our separate ways.”
On a more positive note, though, the friendship between McEntire and Clarkson is still going strong. Music megastar Clarkson has never been afraid to show her emotional side, of course. In fact, the American Idol winner has become renowned both for her deeply personal song lyrics and for bearing her soul on stage. And when the singer paid tribute to fellow country legend McEntire, she certainly lived up to her reputation of wearing her heart on her sleeve. You see, during a rendition of McEntire’s “Fancy,” Clarkson could barely hold back the tears.
Clarkson’s touching performance occurred at the Kennedy Center Honors – an event that pays tribute to people who have made outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry. The ceremony was first held in 1978, and there have been hundreds of famous faces recognized since. And at the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors, it was Reba McEntire’s turn.
McEntire’s successful career has spanned the decades, too, suggesting she’s more than earned her nickname of the “Queen of Country.” But Clarkson’s connection to McEntire goes far deeper than music. And as a result, it’s no wonder that the younger singer got extremely emotional when paying tribute to the legend.
Clarkson, of course, entered the music scene through American Idol back in 2002. And on the show, the singer’s inspiring rags-to-riches-story was broadcast to the entire nation. Before entering the talent competition, you see, Clarkson had been struggling to make it in the entertainment industry. In 2001 the Texas native had made the move to Los Angeles to try and kickstart a career, but she’d repeatedly fallen short.
In fact, you could say that Clarkson had more than her fair share of bad luck in LA. Not only was the aspiring singer rejected by several labels, but a fire in her apartment also forced her to return to her hometown of Burleson, TX. And while Clarkson had to find odd jobs – including waitressing, promoting Red Bull and working at a movie theater – to make ends meet, she still badly wanted to make it as a performer.
But Clarkson’s luck was about to change. In 2002 the Texan’s pals pushed her to enter the TV contest American Idol. And by the sounds of it, the young singer had no idea what she was doing. In 2018 Clarkson told Jimmy Fallon about entering the show, saying, “I was one of those dumb people who was just like, ‘Where do I sign?’ It could’ve ended very poorly.” As we know, though, the experience didn’t go that way at all.
Yes, Clarkson not only made it through the audition stages of American Idol, but she also went on to stunning success on the show. And in September 2002, after beating out her nearest rival, Justin Guarini, she came out of the competition victorious. Suddenly, Clarkson was the singing superstar that she’d always dreamed of being, with her first single becoming the highest-selling track in the U.S. that year.
Furthermore, being crowned the winner of American Idol meant that Clarkson was now rubbing shoulders with other famous faces. And there was one star in particular whom the singer had always wanted to meet: Reba McEntire. Apparently, you see, Clarkson had long admired the country music queen. So, when in 2002 the Texas native got to pick a duet partner for a concert, she inevitably chose McEntire.
And it’s easy to see why Clarkson would have idolized McEntire. After all, the country legend’s career is surely something about which countless aspiring musicians dream. That said, her fame didn’t come without hard work. McEntire taught herself how to play the guitar, for one thing, and she learned to sing in order to get her parents’ attention.
Indeed, McEntire believes that it’s determination and passion rather than talent that gets you to the top of the charts. In 2018 the star told The Washington Post, “There’s a lot of people – a lot of girl singers – who are 10,000 times better than me. [But] they don’t have the drive; they don’t have the work ethic. They don’t have the want-to, and they don’t love it as much as I do.”
It stands to reason, then, that McEntire warmed to Clarkson, as the younger singer had certainly been willing to put in the work. And when the pair first performed together in 2002, McEntire had nothing but praise for Clarkson. She told her admirer on stage, “I am so proud of you… I gotta tell you, I am so happy to get to sing with you tonight.”
But this wouldn’t be the last time that McEntire and Clarkson connected through music. In 2003, for instance, Clarkson sang a rendition of McEntire’s track “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” while on tour. And three years later, the Texan appeared on a CMT show that paid tribute to McEntire’s illustrious career, where she performed “Does He Love You.”
Then, over the next few years, Clarkson and McEntire appeared to grow even closer – both as collaborators and friends. In 2007, for example, the pair penned a song together called “A Lot Like You.” The stars also performed side by side on several occasions – including at the Ryman Auditorium, on The Oprah Winfrey Show and at the ACM Awards. And not only that, but the duo also recorded a version of Clarkson’s “Because of You” for McEntire’s album Reba: Duets.
In 2008, however, McEntire and Clarkson’s professional relationship reached the next level. That’s right: they went on tour together, belting out each other’s hits on stages across North America. And country music fans flocked in their thousands to see the show, which was called 2 Worlds 2 Voices, with all 15 stops of the first leg selling out.
So, Clarkson and McEntire’s collaborations were seemingly paying off. But according to USA Today, not everyone would have put the two singers together. Robert Deutsch wrote in a 2007 article for the publication, “It’s one of pop music’s most curious couplings: the 52-year-old country music matriarch and the original American Idol who’s less than half her age. But Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson’s friendship could benefit both.”
Meanwhile, Chet Flippo, the then editorial director at CMT.com, agreed that while Clarkson and McEntire’s connection shouldn’t work, it does. He told USA Today, “It’s an odd but warm relationship. Kelly is Reba’s musical daughter. They’re completely without artifice together.”
And it seems as though Clarkson and McEntire inspire each other, too – both professionally and personally. Clarkson told USA Today “[McEntire] has that big, soulful, kind of sassy voice but can also pull off a beautiful ballad. Honestly, she’s the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good for every young singer to have somebody they can model their careers after.”
But Clarkson and McEntire’s bond actually extended beyond performing. In particular, the country icon’s now ex-husband and manager, Narvel Blackstock, apparently helped Clarkson out a lot. McEntire told USA Today, “When you’re hanging out together, you talk about the business. [Clarkson] would ask me my opinion, and I’d always say, ‘The best advice I can give you is go ask Narvel.’ So she did.”
Remarkably, though, McEntire and Clarkson would end up being not just friends but family. You see, Clarkson signed Narvel up as her manager, too, and it was through him that she met her future husband: Narvel’s son, Brandon Blackstock. At the time, however, Blackstock was married to Melissa Ashworth.
Then, when Blackstock got a divorce, romance was seemingly on the cards with Clarkson. The singer had apparently had a crush on him for a while, and the two encountered each other again at the 2012 Super Bowl. And while Clarkson was at the prestigious football event to sing the U.S. national anthem, something equally as thrilling was going on behind the scenes. The star told the Daily Mail in 2012, “Suddenly, there [Blackstock] was at the Super Bowl, and he was single.”
With sparks seemingly flying at the Super Bowl, Clarkson and Blackstock went on to begin seeing each other. But apparently, all did not bode well at first. Clarkson told Cosmopolitan in 2013, “This is the funniest [and] worst thing ever: one of my superhero idols is Whitney Houston, and the day she died was [my] first date [with Blackstock]. I was like, ‘This is a bad omen.’”
But the universe was apparently on Clarkson and Blackstock’s side after all, as by the end of 2012 the couple were engaged. Blackstock had popped the question in December of that year and had given Clarkson a beautiful yellow diamond ring. The singer subsequently tweeted in excitement, “I’m engaged! I wanted y’all to know! Happiest night of my life last night! I am so lucky and am with the greatest man ever.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, McEntire was delighted to hear about the engagement. In 2013 she told Katie Couric, “To have my buddy as my daughter-in-law – I mean, who could ask for more?” Plus, the country legend revealed that she and her then-husband would inspire the new couple “by example instead of words.”
Clarkson and Blackstock’s intimate wedding took place in October 2013 at a resort in Walland, Tennessee. And of course, Clarkson tweeted out the good news to her followers. She wrote, “I’m officially Mrs. Blackstock. We got married yesterday at Blackberry Farms in TN – the most beautiful place ever!”
Then, after walking down the aisle, Clarkson became stepmom to Blackstock’s two kids, Savannah and Seth. In June 2014 the couple also welcomed their first child together, whom they named River Rose. And McEntire was thrilled by the happy news.
In 2015 McEntire told Entertainment Tonight all about her new grandchild. The artist said of River Rose, “She’s a doll. She’s been in London with her mom and dad and her granddad because my husband manages myself and Kelly. So, they’ve been very busy, and that’s given a lot of together time for Narvel and River. And he’s loving every minute of it. He sends me videos and pictures every day.”
And McEntire also explained how pleased she was for Clarkson. The singer added, “I’m very proud of her. She’s a girl with a big heart – very giving, loving and talented. Everybody knows she’s talented, but sometimes they don’t see that big-hearted loving person that she really is. And I’m so happy for her. I’ve never seen her happier than she is right now.”
Then in 2016 Clarkson and Brandon added to their brood once again with a son called Remington. And the following year, McEntire revealed to Rare Country what Clarkson was like as a parent. The veteran musician claimed, “I don’t think [motherhood’s] changed [Clarkson]. [She] is so full of love and has so much energy that it’s just brought it all out. It hasn’t changed her. She’s just blossomed. She’s a good mama.”
And even though McEntire and Blackstock divorced in 2015, the country star touchingly continues to refer to Clarkson as her daughter-in-law – and sometimes even her “daughter-in-love.” That last term was just one of the sweet labels she used to refer to the younger woman when she appeared on The Talk in April 2018.
In fact, McEntire positively gushed about the relationship, saying, “[Clarkson] and I got to tour together in 2008, [and] it was one of the most exciting, fun tours I’ve ever been a part of… You know, I love her to pieces. She’s been one of my best friends since I met her in 2002, [and] now she’s my daughter-in-law.”
McEntire continued her praise for Clarkson, adding, “She’s a wonderful person, big-hearted [and] always full of joy and laughter.” And in 2018 Clarkson got the chance to repay McEntire for some of these kind words. In fact, the whole nation got to see the depth of the stars’ relationship when Clarkson paid tribute to her idol at the Kennedy Center Honors.
It’s fair to say that 2018’s Kennedy Center Honors had plenty of highlights, too. Multiple people received awards, including Cher, Wayne Shorter and Philip Glass. Hamilton’s creators, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, also received special prizes for their work. And yet even amid all of this excitement, Clarkson’s musical tribute arguably stole the show.
But before Clarkson even began singing, viewers knew that they were in for an emotional ride. Standing on stage in a beautiful red gown, the star said, “I’ve been a fan of [McEntire’s] since I was a little girl. Her voice has always felt nostalgic for me. Even as an adult, there’s something about her tone and her storytelling that just feels like home.”
And as Clarkson continued, she began tearing up a little. She went on to tell the audience, “Sometimes when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out how you hope. But meeting [McEntire], being friends with her and eventually becoming family has been one of the highlights of my life, truly.”
Next, Clarkson directly addressed McEntire, saying, “Thank you so much for listening to me vent as an artist. Thank you so much for comforting me on the phone through my tears like a friend. And thank you for being a really rad grandma for my kids. I love you so much.” And she added, “I hope you enjoy this song. Don’t judge me!”
Then, following Clarkson’s moving words, the star performed the song “Fancy.” The track was one of McEntire’s biggest hits in the 1990s. The star often opens her concerts with what she considers her signature song, too, belting out the first half in a coat before taking it off to reveal a red dress – just like the one that Clarkson was wearing for her rendition. And when Clarkson finished singing, McEntire was clearly delighted.
Yes, McEntire immediately got to her feet and applauded Clarkson. In a touching gesture, she also gave her “daughter-in-love” two thumbs up from where she was standing in the audience. And perhaps there will be many more moments like this for the two friends in times to come. After all, McEntire and Clarkson were still singing each other’s praises the following year.
In March 2019 McEntire talked to Us Weekly about her close bond with Clarkson. The country music queen said proudly, “We’re family. She married my oldest son, Brandon, but we’re also good friends, so that goes a long way – when you can have a good friend as a part of your family.”
And when asked whether she and Clarkson were ever going to collaborate again, McEntire responded, “I hope [so]. We don’t have anything planned right now, though. She’s got her boat loaded!” But that said, fans didn’t have to wait long before the famous duo did perform together once more.
Yes, in April 2019 McEntire made a surprise guest appearance during Clarkson’s Meaning of Life tour. Presumably much to fans’ delight, they performed “Because of You” and a few of McEntire’s biggest numbers – including “Fancy.” And Clarkson summed up their unique bond with a touching statement on stage. She said, “It’s just a really rare thing to meet your hero and they live up to it.”