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During the star-studded ceremony, which aired Wednesday on CBS, Clarkson honored her musical "hero" — who just so happens to be her former mother-in-law — by performing a show-stopping cover of McEntire’s 1990 hit “Fancy.”
“I’ve been a fan of Reba since I was a little girl. 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,” said Clarkson, who wore a gorgeous red floor-length gown.
“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," she said. "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."
"I love you so much. I hope you enjoy this song," Clarkson added, before joking, "Don’t judge me!"
In a sweet twist, the two singers were even family members for a while: When Clarkson wed her manager, Brandon Blackstock, in 2013, McEntire became her mother-in-law. At the time, the country music superstar was married to Blackstock's stepfather, musician Narvel Blackstock. The couple divorced in 2015.
The 2018 Kennedy Center Honors took place Dec. 2 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. This year's honorees also included singer and acting legend Cher, composer Philip Glass, jazz great Wayne Shorter and the creators of the Broadway smash hit "Hamilton."