CMA Awards 1993: Reba McEntire’s “Racy” Red Dress Sparks Controversy

Reba McEntire country music

A LOT has changed since 1993.

Long before the Janet Jackson halftimes and the Lady Gaga meat dresses, and even before Shania Twain was really established as country music’s leading sex symbol, Reba was actually the one making waves for her style choices at the annual CMAs.

Country’s most beloved redhead took to the stage in a matching red dress for her scheduled duet performance of “Does He Love You” with Linda Davis.

But Reba’s vocals were far from what the crowd would be talking about in the aftermath of her performance.

Instead, the focus fell to the “revealing” neckline of Reba’s dress, and although it was doubly covered in red sheer and sequins, many felt that the dress was scandalous and should have never been selected by the “Fancy” singer.

In Reba’s memoir, Reba: My Story, she shared that she was in bed recovering from foot surgery during the making of her CMA dress. She helped select colors and shapes, but she basically left all of the major decisions to her trusted friend and designer, Sandi Spika. When she first saw the revealing mesh, Sandi assured her that she was going to cover more of it with sequins…. and she didn’t.

She told People Magazine:

“I had only had two fittings with Sandy Spika. One was at our office and I said, ‘I think you need to fill some more stuff in!’ When I put it on in the dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry for the show, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just the lighting in here.’”

She recalled feeling “spectacular” listening to the response from the crowd that night as she stepped out in her red ensemble, but she soon realized that much of the outcry was about her low neckline.

“And when I walked out on the stage, I heard the audience go ‘Oooooh!’ And I thought, ‘Dang, I look good!’”

It’s crazy to think that this same dress is one that wouldn’t even cause a second glance in 2022, but for Reba it caused the nation to question her “country sweetheart” title and wonder if she’d lost her morals by coming out for a performance dressed that way.

Regardless, Reba received lots of backlash. A tremendous amount, actually, even after the awards had wrapped that night.

She shared in Reba: My Story that outraged opinion pieces were printed in Nashville newspapers and that one person even called a local radio show to express their “strong protest” of her red dress.

Ultimately, the dress was probably made a bit more daring that Reba would have personally chosen had she been around for more of the dress making process, but her lack of hesitancy in wearing it become quite iconic.

She was interviewed following the events by Ralph Emery where she shared:

“I got more press off that dress than if I’d won Entertainer of the Year”

Reba made her reply to the 1993 outrage clearly known, wearing the dress regularly in concert for many years following the debacle.

She even donned the dress for her hosting duties at the ACMs in 2018, proving that she still has the vivacity and rebelliousness to pull off the red dress of controversy.

A beer bottle on a dock

STAY ENTERTAINED

A RIFF ON WHAT COUNTRY IS REALLY ABOUT

A beer bottle on a dock