Kentucky Fried Chicken may have cast Reba McEntire as its latest celebrity portrayal of Colonel Sanders, but as she sings in the new ad, “nothing has changed.”
Colonel Sanders looks more or less the same in KFC’s new ads for Smoky Mountain BBQ fried chicken, except that he happens to be played by a woman—Grammy award-winning country artist Reba McEntire.
McEntire plays Colonel Sanders as a country music star performing in a honky tonk music establishment. His trademark white suit now features sparkling fringe and appears to be tailored slightly at the waist, but the character remains male. He just happens to sing with McEntire’s clear, female singing voice.
“I’m Colonel Sanders, the same as always,” McEntire sings as the country music star Colonel, “Absolutely nothing has changed. Please ignore this likeness a famous country singer, I’m definitely not a woman.”
McEntire makes a cameo as a member of the audience, catching his hat and making a gesture of approval at the “famous country singer” lyric. In another spot called “Country Music Singer,” she plays Colonel Sanders who dresses up as Reba McEntire for inspiration but changes his mind and stays true to himself.
This marks the first time Colonel Sanders has been portrayed by a woman or a famous musician.
KFC’s announcement comes at a time when public outcries for female equality and gender discussion have reached a fever pitch—but these new tongue-in-cheek ads are consistent with the company’s previous marketing campaigns.
The official press release focused not on McEntire’s gender, but her occupation. It’s tempting to assume KFC is trying to capitalize on the discussion around female empowerment—something the brand denies—but Reba McEntire as Colonel Sanders as Reba McEntire doesn’t exactly say, “we take ourselves seriously.”
McEntire herself doesn’t see the ads as making a statement, but rather a continuation of KFC’s humor and a reflection of her own affinity for the brand.
“It was a great thing to do,” the country singer told USA Today. “It’s a spoof, and I’m an actress and that’s how I took it.”
McEntire joins an ever-growing rotation of celebrity Colonel Sanders characters—some of whom represent different flavors of fried chicken. The country music star was chosen to represent Smoky Mountain BBQ because of her Southern roots.
Videos of the new Colonel Sanders character with his Smoky Mountain BBQ chicken have been uploaded to the KFC’s YouTube channel and will make their debut as TV and video ads beginning January 28.