Reba McEntire is Colonel Sanders

NEW YORK • The new colonel is a woman.

Fried chicken chain KFC has picked country singer Reba McEntire to appear as Colonel Sanders in its latest marketing campaign, the first time a woman is portraying the mascot who honours the restaurant's founder, Harland Sanders.

In recent years, KFC has tapped male actors, including Ray Liotta and Rob Lowe, for the role.

Now, with the debate about gender diversity touching industries from Wall Street to Hollywood, KFC has shifted course as it rolls out advertisements touting its new smoky mountain barbecue chicken.

The company said it picked McEntire because she "embodies the brand". "We've been publicly talking for a while about the fact that anyone who embodies the spirit of the colonel is qualified to play this role," said the chain's chief marketing officer Andrea Zahumensky.

McEntire, 62, said the transformation, which sees her wearing a wig and sporting a goatee, took hours.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Reba McEntire is Colonel Sanders'. Print Edition | Subscribe