It’s not often you become family with your heroes, but when you do, it’s undoubtedly an incredible and memorable moment. At least that’s the sense we get when we watch the latest footage of Kelly Clarkson’s Kennedy Center Honors tribute for Reba McEntire because not only is McEntire Clarkson’s mother-in-law (Clarkson married McEntire’s former stepson, Brandon Blackstock, in 2013) but one of her idols too.
To see Clarkson in action is truly a thing of beauty, but to understand all the elements at work within this tribute makes it more emotional than you might have expected. During the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors, which was taped on Dec. 2 before airing on Wednesday, Clarkson choked up as she spoke about McEntire’s influence on her life and career before going on to perform a powerful rendition of McEntire’s hit song “Fancy.”
“I’ve been a fan of Reba since I was a little girl,” Clarkson said. “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.”
She added, “Sometimes, when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out how you hope. But meeting Reba — being friends with her, and eventually becoming family — has been one of the highlights of my life, truly. So 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.” Then, Clarkson kept things personal but light as she concluded, “I love you so much. I hope you enjoy this song — don’t judge me!”
During Clarkson’s performance, McEntire seemed to only be enjoying herself. She even gave her daughter-in-law a standing ovation and a double thumbs-up as Clarkson said, “Thank you. I hope I did you justice!”
Clarkson and McEntire have performed together several times throughout the years, including at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards. They even went on tour in 2008, five years before Clarkson and Blackstock married. He is the son of Narvel Blackstock, whom McEntire married in 1989 and divorced in 2015. Clearly, that hasn’t changed her family status in the eyes of Clarkson, her husband or their kids, which is wonderful.
McEntire was among eight Kennedy Center honorees this year, including Cher, Philip Glass, Wayne Shorter and the creative team behind Hamilton, including its star and Tony-winning composer/lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler and Alex Lacamoire.
In addition to Clarkson paying tribute to McEntire, so did Melissa Peterman, who played Barbra Jean on Reba, as well as Brooks & Dunn, Lady Antebellum and Kristin Chenoweth. Radio host Bobby Bones, who joins the reboot of Clarkson’s alma mater, American Idol, next season, also had a few words to say about the star’s massive impact throughout the years.