Dolly Parton: Things You Never Knew About The Beloved Country Music Star
There's a good reason she hasn't had a bad hair day since 1973!
Dolly Parton is one of the most successful entertainers of all time. From acting to singing to songwriting and running her own amusement park to just being an all-around loveable and hilarious person, it seems like there’s nothing this pint-sized powerhouse can’t do. Whether you’re a casual fan or a diehard “Backwoods Barbie” devotee, there’s likely a thing or two you never knew about Parton.
Read on to learn some under-the-radar interesting facts about the living legend.
She’s Happy Being ‘Everyone’s Mom’
Despite her super-warm and maternal persona, Parton and her husband, Carl Dean, don’t have any children of their own.“God has a plan for everything,” the star said during a 2017 appearance on NBC’s “Today.” “I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine. And they are now.”
She’s Married To A ‘Regular Guy’
— Imagination Library (@dollyslibrary) May 30, 2018
While she’s one of the most accomplished and famous entertainers of all time, Parton’s husband of 52 years prefers to stay out of the spotlight. Although Carl Dean is proud and supportive of all his wife’s success, he prefers a quieter life, something that’s just fine by Parton.
“You can’t be in each other’s face all the time,” Parton told Taste of Country in 2011.”Actually, I think that has been the best formula for us, the fact that we appreciate each other when we are together. We don’t have to be together all the time.”
She Lost Her Own Lookalike Contest
Parton’s iconic style is often imitated but never duplicated. In fact, she once entered a lookalike contest full of drag queens trying to pull off her look. No one realized that they were competing against the real Dolly, and she didn’t even win the contest in the end!
She’s Had Some Wardrobe Malfunctions
Parton is famous for her often-skin-tight and revealing outfits. When a fan asked what the most embarrassing thing to happen to her on stage was, Parton cited mishaps with some of her sexy attire over the years.
“I have had clothes bust apart on stage, seriously I have,” Parton said during a 2009 appearance on “Good Morning America.” “Once at Dollywood [her Tennessee theme park] … I had a beaded dress that was really very, very tight and it popped right in the middle of a song and my background singer came over, got the guitar and put it up against me because my dress was coming forward and he backed me off stage, backed me into the dressing room and I changed and came back out on stage. I wear my clothes awfully tight.”
She Has A Special Relationship With Miley Cyrus
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) September 26, 2017
The legendary singer seems to have a special kinship with Miley Cyrus, another performer who has country roots. Thanks to Parton’s friendship with Cyrus’ dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, she has known Miley since she was born. The two have collaborated musically, and Parton is even her unofficial godmother.
She Wrote ‘Jolene’ About A Real Person
One of Parton’s biggest hits, 1973’s “Jolene,” was inspired by two real-life people. The name “Jolene” comes from a beautiful little girl who asked Parton for an autograph one night, while the situation depicted in the song’s lyrics was based on a gorgeous bank teller who Parton described to NPR as having a “terrible crush on my husband.” The song has been recorded more than any other one written by Parton.
She Comes From Humble Beginnings
One of Parton’s trademark catchphrases is, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” but money wasn’t always something she had a lot of. Parton grew up as one of 12 children in rural Tennessee, and her small, two-bedroom home lacked electricity and running water. Despite her hardships, Parton says her humble upbringing made her who she is today.
“We didn’t have any money, but we were rich in things that money don’t buy,” she said of her childhood during a 2015 appearance on NBC’s “Today.” “You know, like love and kindness and understanding.”
She Has Siblings In The Biz
Parton’s younger sister, Stella (pictured below), is a singer, and a couple of her other siblings are in the entertainment business as well.
She’s Coming To Netflix
In June 2018, Parton struck a deal with Netflix for a series based on some of her most beloved songs. She will serve as singer/songwriter as well as executive producer for the anthology, which is set to debut in 2019. Expect to see Parton appear in at least some of the episodes.
She’s Set To Appear In A ‘9 To 5’ Sequel
Speaking of Netflix, Parton is set to join the stars of the Netflix original series “Grace and Frankie,” Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, in a long-awaited sequel to the 1980 movie “9 to 5,” in which all three starred. Parton also wrote and performed the film’s titular song, for which she won two Grammys. We can’t wait to see these three iconic performers back together on the screen!
Her ‘Steel Magnolias’ Director Was Harsh
Other than “9 to 5,” “Steel Magnolias” is probably Parton’s best-known work in film. Although fans loved her quotable portrayal of Truvy Jones, the quick-witted salon owner with a heart of gold, the movie’s notoriously tough director, Herbert Ross, wasn’t always as impressed with Parton’s performance. According to co-stars Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field, Ross went so far as to suggest that Parton take acting lessons at one point during filming. Her legendary colleagues did not agree with his assessment, however.
“You don’t say that to Dolly Parton!” Field said of the exchange at a 2013 event. “Dolly Parton is absolutely the funniest, wittiest and filthiest, and she will cut you to ribbons.”
She Won A Grammy For Remaking ‘Jolene’ In 2017
Despite the popularity of smash hit “Jolene” when it was released in 1973, Parton did not win a Grammy for the song at the time. (It did receive two nominations, however.) But when she teamed up with a cappella group Pentatonix for a remake of the classic tune, it snagged Parton and the group the Grammy for Country Duo/Group Performance in 2017.
She Once Turned Down The King
When Parton released her hit single “I Will Always Love You” in 1974, none other than Elvis Presley wanted to record his own version of the song. Although Parton was flattered, she ultimately decided not to grant him permission because “The King” wanted half the publishing rights.
She characterized the experience as a “really hard business decision,” and while she would have loved to hear Presley’s version of the song, she told CNBC that she’s glad she had the foresight to protect her business so early in her career.
‘I Will Always Love You’ Is Not About A Romantic Love
Parton’s decision to hold onto the rights to “I Will Always Love You” turned out to be a smart one, as she went on to earn millions in royalties when other artists released successful covers of the song, including Linda Ronstadt and, most famously, Whitney Houston, who sang it for the soundtrack of the 1992 film “The Bodyguard.”
Although the song is used in a romantic context in that film and has widely been perceived as a great love song, it’s actually about Parton’s decision to part ways professionally with Porter Wagoner, the fellow country music star who is credited with introducing Parton to the world through his television show, “The Porter Wagoner Show.” The pair sang many duets together early in her career.
She Has Secret Tattoos
It’s been rumored for years that Parton often wears long sleeves to conceal tattoos that are all over her arms. Although she says there’s no truth to the story that she’s full of ink, she did admit during a 2014 appearance on NBC’s “Today” that she does have a “few small tattoos” and added that they were “mostly done to cover scars because I’m so fair.”
She Was There When Porter Wagoner Died
Despite her decision to strike out on her own in 1973 after her successful tenure with him, Parton and her mentor, Porter Wagoner, remained good friends. When Wagoner passed away due to lung cancer in 2007, Parton was by his side. In his final hours, she even got the chance to serenade him with a bit of the hit song inspired by their relationship.
She’s An Awards Queen
Throughout her long and distinguished career, Parton has earned a number of prestigious awards. Some of her award highlights include multiple Academy of Country Music nominations and awards, multiple Grammy nominations and awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2011) and induction into the Grand Ole Opry in 1969. In 2004, she received the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress, and she is also a 2005 National Medal of the Arts recipient.
She Doesn’t Ride The Rides At Her Own Theme Park
Although Dollywood, Parton’s eponymous theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is filled with thrill rides, the entertainer does not partake in them herself.
“I’ve got too much to lose — like my hair!” Parton explained when asked in a 2016 interview with USA Today about why she abstains from riding roller coasters and the like. “Lord knows what else could fall out of me. I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather do than be scared to death [on a coaster].”
The First Cloned Animal Was Named After Parton
In 1997, the world’s first successfully cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, was born. It turns out the living proof of a scientific breakthrough was named after the one-of-a-kind star.
“Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s,” Dr. Ian Wilmut, the Roslin Institute embryologist who spearheaded the research and experiment that resulted in the cloned animal, explained at the time.
She Had A Crush On Johnny Cash
Before she was country royalty herself, Parton looked up to the icons of the genre when she was growing up. In fact, legendary crooner Johnny Cash became her first crush when she saw him performing at the Grand Ole Opry when she was a teenager.
“I was sitting in the audience and that’s when I first knew about sex appeal, someone striking and made me feel something inside,” Parton said of the experience in a 2012 “Nightline” interview. “He had this tick when he moved his shoulder … and it was still sexy. It still got to me.”
There’s A Reason She Never Has A Bad Hair Day
Parton has rocked some fabulous (and big) hairstyles over the years. If you’re wondering how she gets her strands picture-perfect every time, it’s because her famous mane is not actually her hair. Parton has been wearing wigs since 1973.
Her ‘Assets’ Are Insured
Parton makes no secret of the fact that her enviable figure is not all natural. She doesn’t mind admitting that she gets a little help at the plastic surgeon’s office whenever necessary, and just to cover all her bases, her breasts are insured for $600,000.
She Stays Out Of Politics
Although a lot of stars these days are vocal about where they stand on political issues of the day, that’s one topic the normally chatty Parton steers clear of. Despite repeated attempts by ABC News anchor David Wright to get her to offer an opinion on President Donald Trump during an interview for “Nightline” earlier this year, Parton refused.
“I’m not addressing that,” she said when asked about the president. “I learned a long time ago, keep your damn mouth shut if you want to stay in show business … I’m not in politics, I’m an entertainer.”
She’s A Guinness World Record Holder
In addition to her many accolades and awards received over the years, Parton has also earned two spots in the Guinness World Records 2018 book. The first is for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the U.S. Hot Country Song Chart, and the second is for Most Hits on U.S. Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist, which she snagged with a whopping 107 singles. Rock on, Dolly!
She Once Contemplated Suicide
Parton is famous for her big smile and sunny disposition, but in the 2017 book “Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton,” it’s revealed that the singer went through some dark times. During the 1980s, Parton even considered taking her own life. She credits her dog at the time, Popeye, with jolting her back to reality and saving her life.
She Supports Gay Marriage
While Parton strives to remain apolitical, she has been vocal in the past about her support of certain social issues. In 2014, she came out in support of same-sex marriage, which at that time, was still illegal in her native Tennessee.
“I think everyone should be with who they love,” she told Britain’s Daily Mail. “I don’t want to be controversial or stir up a bunch of trouble but people are going to love who they are going to love. I think gay couples should be allowed to marry. They should suffer just like us heterosexuals. Ha ha ha!”
Her Favorite Drink Is Red Wine
In a 1992 interview with The New York Times, Parton revealed that she isn’t afraid to knock back tequila shots, a strategy that she says allows her to get a buzz without having to taste a lot of alcohol. While tequila might be the most efficient at getting the job done, she also added that her favorite drink is red wine.
“I don’t know too much about different kinds,” she told the newspaper. “But I know I like the kind that has a little of that dryish feeling at the end — from wood or whatever.”
She Sticks To A Low-Carb Diet On The Road
Parton admits that she indulges in some of her favorite country comfort foods, like chicken and dumplings, on special occasions or holidays. When she’s on tour, though, she keeps to a low-carb diet in order to make sure she can squeeze into her skintight performance outfits.
“There is nothing more uncomfortable than trying to wear those tight-ass clothes when you’re too big for them!” she told People in 2016.
Her Faith Influences Her Career
Parton is a devout Christian, and when it comes to making big-time professional decisions, she says she lets her faith guide her.
“If I burn with a passion, I just feel like that’s God saying, ‘Go for it, continue with it,’” she told Newsweek in 2015. “I don’t listen to people as much as I listen to myself and God.”
She Doesn’t Stay In Hotels On Tour
Although she can surely afford to stay in the best hotels money can buy, Parton never stays in them while on tour. Instead, she opts to bunk up in her tour bus, which she finds more comfortable and convenient.
“I live on my bus – I don’t stay in hotels at all so I don’t have the hassle of airports or going in and out of hotels,” she told People in 2016.
She Has A Lifelong BFF
Parton has known best friend Judy Ogle since childhood, and the two are still close today. Rumors have persisted that Parton and Ogle were actually in a secret romantic relationship, but Parton put all that to rest and insists that they’re just the best of friends.
She Plans To Work As Long As Possible
Parton just may be the hardest-working woman in show business, and at 72 years old, she shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
“The only thing that would stop me is if I couldn’t go on for health reasons,” she told Britain’s Mirror in 2016. “I hope I never stop.”