Bebe Rexha is ready to board the turkey train — or the Jennie-O turkey float to be precise.
The Grammy-nominated singer, 31, is set to perform her hit single “Baby, I’m Jealous” — which she released with Doja Cat last month — on the beloved turkey brand’s float during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this Thursday, Nov. 26.
The parade, which typically draws crowds of 3 million, will be a television-only spectacle this year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, airing from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on NBC. Rather than follow its typical 2 ½ mile route, the floats will be localized outside Macy’s headquarters in New York City’s Herald Square.
“I’m really happy to be doing the parade, even though there’s not going to be a crowd,” Rexha tells PEOPLE. “It still brings people together, it’s still unifying.”
The Staten Island native grew up watching the parade, which makes performing in it extra sentimental. “That was a family thing, every year,” she says of tuning in with her family. “We’d wake up in the morning super early, my mom would prepare the turkey and I’d wake up and help her and we’d turn on the parade.”
When it came to her role in preparing the family feast, Rexha shares that she's in charge of the greens. “I’m the best salad maker in my family because I love adding all the bad things, like the cheese,” she laughs. “I’m just really good at making salads, or at least my mother says.”
Rexha, who hasn’t seen her family “in over a year” due to the pandemic, is “excited and nervous” about seeing them again. “I’m trying to be safe with them,” she says, noting that her parents both contracted the coronavirus earlier this year.
“This year it’s not gonna be the whole extended family,” she says of her family’s Thanksgiving plans. “Usually it’s a big celebration and there’s a ton of us. This year it’s just gonna be my immediate family because of everything going on.”
“It’s going to be different," she adds. "This year my dad is making the turkey, so hopefully that goes well. He’s actually an incredible cook, and he’s going to have to do a lot of it on his own because my mom’s going to be with me at the parade.”
Lucky for her dad, if he’s in need of any extra assistance, Jennie-O launched a turkey hotline earlier this month — 1-800-TURKEYS — where anyone can text or call to get expert guidance on how to prepare and cook their turkey.
When it comes to what she’s most looking forward to about the parade, Rexha tells PEOPLE it’s the Jennie-O float she’ll be riding on. “I’m just excited to be standing on a big turkey, I think that’s gonna be really fun,” she says.
To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Jennie-O has constructed a glittering, golden turkey float that measures 36 feet long, 25 feet wide and 24 feet tall. Its tail feathers alone are two stories tall, and the glitter — which is the most used in the parade’s 94-year history — would fill a 55-gallon drum and weigh nearly 200 pounds.
“It’s a cool, full-circle moment,” Rexha says of partnering with the brand. “Growing up, my mom used to make the Jennie-O turkey meatballs and when I first came to Los Angeles on my own when I was 19, I was trying to make things that my mom would make,” she says, adding that she “didn’t have money to do things” and one of her favorite affordable dishes was the meatballs. “She would put them in a sauce and put mozzarella over them and parmesan cheese and make it with spaghetti, and that’s what I was eating all the time in L.A., it was my favorite.”
"It’s just great that I get to go back home with my mom, who made that for me and then I made it,” reflects Rexha. “It’s funny how the world works. It’s kind of amazing.”
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