The Queen of Country Music opens up about her troubled past.
Country music star, Dolly Parton, has always had an admirable sense of fashion. However, she hasn’t always been able to express herself freely because of her strict upbringing.
In a candid and revealing interview with The Guardian, Parton offers her fans an intimate look into her personal life, sharing a story of unwavering resilience and self-determination in the face of someone who sought to exert control over her.
The ‘Jolene’ singer shared how her grandfather and father “scolded and “whipped” her because of the clothes she chose to wear. Parton emphasized her willingness to face setbacks, asserting that she was prepared to pay the price and endure the pain in order to lead an authentic life.
The singer went on to say that her father and preacher grandfather, Reverend Jake Owens, disapproved of her fashion choices and even resorted to physical discipline over her offenses.
“I didn’t like being disciplined— it hurt my feelings so bad to be scolded or whipped or whatever. But sometimes there’s just that part of you that’s willing, if you want something bad enough, to go for it.”
Addressing her distinctive fashion sense, Parton said, “I’ve been at this so long, I’ve worn some of the most bizzare things— my hairdos have always been so out there. When you think you look good, then you look back on it, like, what was I thinking?”
Parton shared that her signature style was inspired by the local “town tramp” she admired as a child.
“She was flamboyant with bright red lipstick, long red fingernails, high-heeled shoes with little plastic goldfish in the heels, short skirts, and low-cut tops. I just thought she was beautiful,” Parton explained.
Since then, she vowed to be like her when she grew up. Even though others saw the woman as something other than a role model, Parton disagreed.
Parton shared that she faced constant criticism from her family as well as record label executives who insisted she change her appearance. However, Parton doubled down on being different and has since been passionate about it.
“I’ve always been true to myself,” Parton stated, recalling advice from her mother. “That was what my mama always used to say: to thine own self be true. I put a lot of stock in that. Everything I do, whether it’s my personality, how I conduct myself and business, or whatever, if I do it my way, according to what I understand and believe, there’s a strength in that. You can think, ‘I can stand by this, I can live by this.'”
Parton admits that people’s opinions held some weight, but she never cared enough to dilute her true self.
The “Coat of Many Colors” singer also shares that she has faced gender-biases in her career. The star felt like her looks sometimes overshadowed her actual talents as a singer.
“It took me probably years longer to be taken seriously,” she said. “I wasn’t willing to change it, and I figured if I had the talent, it’d show up sooner or later.”
Parton also touches on sexism in the industry, asserting her ability to navigate a male-dominated environment and put a man “in his place” when necessary.
When asked if she faced harassment of any kind, Parton replied, “Oh, I did, but I always knew how to put a man in his place without making him feel bad. If sometimes that don’t work, I’m also strong as a boy— I know how to push you off and get the hell away from you.”
Parton’s successful career as a singer is a testimony to her commitment to her dreams and resilience in the face of harsh judgement from her peers. In an interview on Greatest Hits Radio, Parton says she would rather “drop dead” than retire.
“I would never retire,” she said. “I would hopefully drop dead in the middle of a song on stage someday—and hopefully one I’ve written— but that’s how I hope to go.”
“But as far as touring, I think those days are pretty much behind me…you have to stay gone so long on a tour to make it productive and prosperous, and that’s a lot of time at my age—I ain’t got no years to waste,” Parton said.
Many never knew about this darker side of Dolly Parton’s past. Still, the country star has touched the lives of millions. We love to hear a happy ending.