KFCs Next Colonel Sanders Is Reba McIntyre

The new colonel is a woman.

KFC, the fried-chicken chain run by Yum! Brands Inc., 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 honors the restaurant’s founder, Harland Sanders.

In recent years, KFC has tapped various male actors, including Ray Liotta and Rob Lowe, for the role. Now, with a debate about gender diversity touching industries from Wall Street to Hollywood, Yum has shifted course as it rolls out ads 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 Andrea Zahumensky, the chain’s chief marketing officer. “Her Southern roots are a perfect fit.”

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