What “interesting things” did Reba McEntire learn about Annie Oakley while playing her?

When superstar Reba McEntire first played famed sniper Annie Oakley, she was already an admirer of what she knew of the historic icon. But the campaign queen ended up learning a few interesting things about Oakley that solidified her adoration. What new facts about her made McEntire say, “No wonder I was such a big fan of hers”?

Reba McEntire with cast members of the musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ | Spencer Platt/Newsmakers

Who was Annie Oakley?

To start with a brief history lesson, Oakley was a sniper who defied the societal norms of her time. She was born Phoebe Ann Moses in Ohio in 1860 and quickly learned to hunt to help support herself. As a teenager, she began to make a name for herself with her impeccable lens. She ended up paying the mortgage on her mother’s house with the money she earned from her talent.

In the years following her marriage to sharpshooter, Frank Butler, in 1876, she adopted her full stage name, Annie Oakley. According to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1885. It wasn’t long before Oakley became a showpiece.

This opportunity allowed her to travel the world, show off her skills as a rare “champion shooter”, and she even participated in Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 in England.

Oakley has apparently dedicated her life to her marriage, her job, and her dogs. Quietly, she and Butler died in 1926, just weeks apart after 50 years of marriage. His life eventually inspired a show, Anne Oakley, in the 50s.

So, all things considered, he was someone McEntire looked up to from a young age. And the “Fancy” singer was thrilled to get the chance to perform it twice.

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Reba McEntire as Annie Oakley in “Buffalo Girls”

In his 1994 autobiography, Reba: my story, McEntire wrote about getting the role of Oakley for the first time. It was in the 1995 TV miniseries, Buffalo girls.

Although she was excited to play one of her role models, she was mistakenly under the impression that she would receive something comparable to the show’s outfit. Her clothes for the role surprised the style icon a bit.

“They were very nice but not as flashy as I thought!” she wrote. “And you know I like the flash!”

It was then that she discovered that Oakley “made all her own clothes and was a very hands-on person.”

But she also advocated for animal rights and better pay for far west show the workers. “No wonder I was such a huge fan of her,” McEntire said after sharing what she learned.

Reba McEntire and Annie Oakley share a love for diamond earrings

McEntire learned some surprising things she didn’t know about Oakley while playing her in the 90s, and there was one more that seemed to give her a little pleasure. She recalled in her autobiography that she wore diamond earrings in her fittings under the impression that she would need to remove them for filming.

But she’s been told she has something else in common with Oakley besides liking an audience — wearing diamond earrings.

So McEntire was able to retain some of his signature “flash” in the suit, after all. And she got another chance to portray Oakley in 2001, this time with all the Broadway flash for a revival of Annie take your gun.

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