It shouldn’t be surprising that in the months after Wonder Woman dominated the summer box office and Dr. Who announced it would feature the first female Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in the long-lived show’s run, that there would be other women cast in traditionally male roles. But KFC has cast Reba McEntire as the first woman to play Colonel Sanders and it feels completely right—if not surprising. But, also, it's subversive in the way that it toys with gender.
The country legend was chosen as the new chicken-loving Colonel for the release of Smoky Mountain BBQ chicken to star in a commercial that toggles between McEntire as herself in the audience of a honky-tonk and McEntire in full Colonel Sanders drag singing a tune affirming his maleness while also touting his latest culinary delight.
“I’m Colonel Sanders, same as always. Absolutely nothin’s changed,” McEntire Sings as Sanders. “Oh, please ignore any likeness to famous country singers. I’m definitely not a woman.”
It feels like a bold move on the part of the chain restaurant renowned for its no-nonsense approach to buckets of chicken to cast a woman as its male spokesperson, even if that woman is a beloved national treasure. The boldness is furthered by McEntire’s Colonel donning a slightly more bedazzled and tapered signature white suit jacket while asserting that no matter how feminized this Colonel may appear, he's “not a woman.”
"We picked Reba McEntire because she is a perfect fit for KFC and Smoky Mountain BBQ. She embodies the qualities of the colonel with her showmanship and entrepreneurial spirit," KFC Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Zahumensky told USA Today. "We love to find people who are really iconic, like Rob Lowe is very iconic. Also, someone who really represents our product. She is definitely sweet. She has that Southern charm."
Regarding taking on the role, McEntire, a long-time fan of KFC said she was eager to play the part for the fun of it and for nostalgia.
"It's something that, in a way, you can kind of poke fun at yourself by dressing up as the colonel," McEntire said. "But, in a way, it's very respectable because he's been a part of our growing-up years."