There’s nobody quite like singer-songwriter, philanthropist and unapologetic wig fanatic Dolly Parton. She is best known of course for her hits Jolene, 9 to 5 and I Will Always Love You, but also for her infectious positivity, flirtatious Tennessee charm and headstrong ambition. Parton is universally loved by all, transcending fan-bases to stand as both a gay icon and darling of pop-country music.
There are endless reasons for holding her in high esteem, like her witty one-liners (“It takes a lot of money to look this cheap!”) and her prolific philanthropy. But there’s also her decades-long commitment to maintaining her sartorial larger-than-life image. Like medieval royalty, Parton spends outrageous amounts of money on embellished finery to wield a power beyond her tiny five-foot-one stance. There are the acrylic nails, the fringing and diamante and the boobs, all of which create an intimidating barrier which she knocks down with a disarmingly unpretentious kindness.
Born in 1946 in Sevier County, a corner of Tennessee edged by the Great Smoky Mountains, Parton was one of 12 siblings (the younger of whom she helped to raise with Carl Thomas Dean, her husband of 51 years). In 1974, following the release of her single I Will Always Love You, Elvis Presley offered to record a cover, which would have boosted her early solo career considerably. There was just one stipulation; she’d have to sell him half the song’s rights. She refused. This, Parton later reflected, was one of the hardest business decisions she had to make: “People were saying, ‘You’re nuts. It’s Elvis Presley.'’ ... I said, ‘I can’t do that. Something in my heart says, ‘Don’t do that.’ And I just didn’t do it... Then when Whitney’s version came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland.”
We could all benefit from being more Dolly, and living by some of her best quotes to date is no bad place to start.
- “There’s no such thing as natural beauty.”
- “People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know, I’m never there.”
- “I have a strict policy that no one cries alone in my presence.”
- “Yes, I support gay marriage. They have every right to be as miserable as straight people.”
- “I was the first woman to burn my bra – it took the fire department four days to put it out.”
- “I tried every diet in the book. I tried some that weren’t in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.”
- “We’re all just a bunch of sinners, but we do the best we can!”
- “I think there is a little magic in the fact that I’m so totally real but look so artificial at the same time.”
- “My own hair is so flat and fine. I could never make it do anything – that’s why I wear wigs. I think God gave me talent cos he screwed up my hair.”
- “Until I was a teenager, I used red pokeberries for lipstick and a burnt matchstick for eyeliner.”