Many of country and Gospel's leading ladies turned out at the Grand Ole Opry this past Tuesday for the annual "Opry Goes Pink" performance. A yearly tradition that serves as a partnership between the legendary WSM radio show and Women Rock For The Cure, LeAnn Rimes opened the program by flipping the switch on for the show's signature barn backdrop -- which was pink instead of the normal red in honor of breast cancer awareness.
It was a notable night for many of the performers -- including "American Idol" alum Mandisa -- who performed on the Opry stage for the first time. Backstage, she told Billboard the evening was very special to her – from a musical standpoint. "I was eliminated from American Idol during country week my season," she admits, "so being able to sing here tonight felt like redemption." She also had a personal reason for being there. "I have a friend who is battling breast cancer, so coming together with Women Rock meant a lot to me."
For Natalie Grant, the night had several meanings -- and a phone call that she savored. "I'm thrilled to represent Christian and gospel music here tonight, especially on a night like this, where it's all about hope and healing. I feel like the kind of music I make is all about hope and healing, so I feel it's a perfect match. Right before I came out here, Curb called and told me my latest album, Hurricane, debuted at No. 1, so I'm very excited about that. All of those things combined helped to make it a night that I'll never forget."
Though the night included performances by acts such as Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, and Amy Grant, one of the evening's true stars was Medina, TN resident Jessi Pruett as an honorary young survivor of breast cancer. Backstage, she admitted the evening was a powerful one.
"I am just overjoyed to be able to be here at the Grand Ole Opry with Women Rock For The Cure," she told Billboard. "I am a seven-year survivor. I was diagnosed eight years ago, but they start counting your cancer-free birthday at the end of your treatment. I have been blessed to be involved with Women Rock For The Cure for the past three years. I have attended two of their young survivor retreats. It's such an amazing and life changing experience, and that's why I wanted to be here tonight, to support them. Being a young breast cancer survivor, there are different issues that you face, and finding someone to talk to that understands what you are going through can be a challenge."
Pruett's courage – and young age – were both noticed by Rimes, who said the evening was definitely a wake up call. "It seems to be younger and younger people all the time," she noted. "You're supposed to be having a mammogram when you're 40, and I'm 31. Well, maybe I should do that myself, because you see people in their 20s who have went through it. It's something you start thinking about earlier and earlier, though I don't think of myself as old enough to do it. But, I am. The magnitude of understanding why I'm here and what I'm a part of has weighed on me quite heavily tonight."
Cameras were following Rimes for the upcoming VH1 reality show that will give viewers a look inside the singer's home – including life with husband Eddie Cibrian. The singer said she has actually enjoyed the experience.
"They're not following us around 24/7, which is great. We kind of have control over what you see, which is a good thing. We really let people into a part of us that is not normally portrayed in the tabloids. There has been such a skewed version of who we are and what our story is. It's been long enough that we've had plenty of time to heal and move forward. It's time to laugh now. If people knew how not seriously we took ourselves, which I think will come across in the show. We touch on some heavy topics, but we have a lot of fun and try to find the humor in everything – which is who Eddie and I are. You get to see all the aspects of our life that you wouldn't normally see, which I guess I'm used to. Though, we have such a great crew that we're working with that I don't mind them being around. It's a lot of fun. It's been good."