Reba McEntire Says She and Boyfriend Rex Linn First Bonded Over Tater Tots: 'We've Been Together Ever Since'

The pair's first date resulted in nicknames for each other — "Tater Tot" and "Sugar Tot"

Reba McEntire is opening up about the origin of her relationship with boyfriend Rex Linn — and it involves some fried potatoes!

In a new interview on Wednesday's episode of The Jennifer Hudson Show, the country superstar spoke about how she and Linn's co-starring roles on Young Sheldon led to their first date — nearly 30 years after they first met.

McEntire, 68, recalled meeting the 66-year-old "handsome rascal" while on the set of 1991's The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw movie, noting that they shared a mutual friend in film producer E.K. Gaylord II. It wasn't until January 2020, however, that she and Linn actually decided to get romantic.

"I was doing Young Sheldon, the TV show, Rex was doing Young Sheldon — so was Melissa Peterman, who played Barbara Jean on the Reba show," said the "Fancy" icon. "Rex texted me and said, 'You gonna be in town?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Well, let's go to dinner.'"

reba and rex linn
Reba McEntire and Rex Linn. ABC via Getty

The plans didn't come to fruition for a couple of weeks, but they eventually went out for a meal together. "We all went to dinner, had a good time, went down the street to a wine bar, and they said, 'Well, I understand you've already had dinner, but we do have some good appetizers,'" said McEntire.

"I said, 'What do you have?' They said, 'Well, we have tater tots.' I went, [raises hand], and so Rex said, 'That's your nickname from here on out — Tater Tot,'" she told host Jennifer Hudson, explaining that she now calls Linn by the nickname "Sugar Tot."

"We're the tots — sugar and tater. So, we've been together ever since," added McEntire. "He's a sweetheart."

Reba McEntire and Jennifer Hudson
Reba McEntire and Jennifer Hudson. Chris Millard/Warner Bros.

Shortly after entering their relationship, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, and the Grammy winner's mother Jacqueline died of cancer at age 93 in March 2020. McEntire told Hudson, 41, that she went home to Oklahoma and stayed with her sister Susie while "taking care of all of Mom and Dad's things," and Linn sweetly sent them food packages in the mail.

"Every day there was a new something coming in," she said. "We live in southeastern Oklahoma, Susie does... and it takes you a long time to get anywhere. So, here comes UPS or Federal Express, and Mark Eaton, my brother-in-law, was standing out on the front porch and said, 'What's he gonna bring today? What's he sending?'"

McEntire continued, "He sent pecan pie, lobster tail, steaks — Perini steaks from south Texas — and boy, it was a good time. McConnell's ice cream. My little sister would ration us. We'd just get one little scoop per night while we were watching Ozark. She was saving it."

Reba McEntire and Jennifer Hudson
Reba McEntire and Jennifer Hudson. Chris Millard/Warner Bros.

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Elsewhere during the episode, she and Hudson sang a powerhouse duet of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," which McEntire covered in 1988, while the American Idol alum covered the song for the 2021 film Respect.

"I love the song. I love Aretha. I got to meet her — she scared me to death. I wouldn't even go up and talk to her," detailed the "I'm a Survivor" performer. "I got to meet her in Washington, D.C, at 'Christmas in Washington,' and she's just amazing."

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