Dolly Parton to RuPaul: ‘This is my living self. I am a living drag queen’

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Dolly Parton is a genius, icon, American hero and just a lovely person. But did you also know that she can out-savage RuPaul? Amazing. Dolly covers Marie Claire’s December/Holiday issue and the interview was conducted over Zoom by Ru. Dolly very easily out-drag-queens him. The entire piece is worth a read because Dolly is so amazing, and there’s tons of stuff I can’t even fit into this post, like Dolly speaking about the origins of the Imagination Library (her free books to kids), her Netflix special and more. Some highlights:

RP: Do you have a spiritual practice?
Oh, yes. I’m a very spiritual person. Every single day, before I do anything, I wake up and I thank God for the night and ask him to bless the day and to bring all the right things…all the wrong people out of my life, and bring all the right stuff in. And just to guide me, lead me. And I always pray that he’ll let me uplift mankind and glorify Him.

RP: How early in the morning do you get up?
Well, that depends. I’m a very, very, very early riser. I go to bed pretty early, but I’m up and down. If I wake up and I’m pretty well awake, I think, I’ve got so much to do, I’ll get up and I’ll work a little while, write a little while, and I’ll lay back down. But I’m always, almost always up for good around 3 a.m. So I do some of my best spiritual work, some of my best writing, and some of my business work—call-ins and letters that I’m writing or whatever—between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. I get more work done during that little period of time when the world is calm, energies are down, and I just feel like a farmer. I think God is a farmer. He’s getting out and he’s throwing down all these little nuggets of corn. Corn mostly, in my place. They say the early bird gets the worm. Well, they also get a lot of good ideas too.

RP: Oh, I agree. It’s when the world is calm. I get up at 4 a.m. every morning. How many hours of sleep do you get?
I don’t require a lot of sleep. Three to five hours I can work on. Five hours I like to get. But usually I’m between three and five. But usually, if I’m on the job, I’ll take a little power nap.

RP: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Well, this morning I made breakfast for my husband and me. I made some sausage patties, and I baked some biscuits, and I made some milk gravy. He likes that once in a while. Now, I can’t eat like that all the time, but I enjoy eating it when I do.

RP: When you were cooking, were you wearing your high heels?
I always wear my high heels. Don’t you?

RP: No. That’s the thing: There are similarities in what we do, but I take all that stuff off.
Well, I don’t. I have to always stay ready—street ready, I always say. I have to keep my makeup on and keep my hair done. Like, when I’m in L.A.—I’ve told you about it—if it’s going to earthquake, if we get an earthquake, I’m not running out in the street looking like you look now. I have to be ambulance-ready at all times, if I get sick or something. But I actually do wear high heels most of the time. They’re not always as high as the ones I wear for show. But I’m little. I’m short. And I have to wear heels in order to reach my cabinets. But I always enjoy wearing the shoes too, and I just feel more like me. But I can come down, though. I’m comfortable in my own skin; I’m comfortable with my image. I dress for myself more than I do for somebody else.

RP: People always ask me about how many wigs I have, and I name each of them different names. But my oldest wigs…I have wigs that I still wear that are about 23 years old. Do you have wigs that are that old?
I do, but most of them are more museum-type pieces too. I don’t think I have any that I wear that are that old now, but I know what you mean. See, you’re a drag queen. Those are like costumes to you. This is my living self. I am a living drag queen. You dress up just now and then, but for me, though, I like the wigs and I wear them almost every day. So, people ask me how many wigs I have, I say, “Well, I must have at least 365,” because I wear one almost every day. But I actually keep my own hair the same color and I just kind of pull it up in little scrunchies around the house. But I still like to put on makeup and have my hair fluffed.

[From Marie Claire]

I laughed the entire way through these quotes, from “street ready” to “I’m not running out in the street looking like you look now” to “This is my living self. I am a living drag queen.” I love her so much. And she’s right! I mean, it’s sort of sad to me that Dolly doesn’t know the joy of sitting at home without a wig, without makeup, in comfortable slippers and some cozy pajamas. It’s sad that she’s always “street ready.” But I also think it’s sort of generational? Women her age were raised that way, especially in the South. You always have “your face on,” you always have a wig handy and you always have your heels.

Also: Dolly only needs 3 or 5 hours of sleep?? Damn. I feel like crap if I get less than six hours. But Dolly and Ru are right about how the best work gets done early in the morning. I’m just super-clear-headed at, like, 4 am and 5 am. It’s very easy to get work done before the rest of the world is awake.

2019 MusiCares Person Of The Year Honoring Dolly Parton

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of Marie Claire.

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34 Responses to “Dolly Parton to RuPaul: ‘This is my living self. I am a living drag queen’”

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  1. SShehheh says:

    Bill Clinton also sleeps so little, I read this somewhere. Some people have that gene for needing so little sleep. I am jealous!

    • Sankay says:

      Elon Musk says he only requires 3-4 hours a night. It seems certain high functioning and/or successful people can get by with less sleep. Sad I didn’t get those genes.

    • Nikki* says:

      As a college kid, I roomed with someone who only slept 3-4 hours every night. I usually get 6 or 7, and was worried until I learned how individual this is. That being said, a woman I know who looks DECADES YOUNGER than her age routinely gets 10 hours of sleep a night, & I’ve heard Sophia Loren say the same, so ?? Maybe we’re all chronically sleep deprived due to electric lighting??

    • jules says:

      I get 4-5 hours a day during the week, and have tons of energy. But on weekends, I can sleep for 12 no problem and always end up feeling a little sluggish.. It’s the getting to sleep part that’s impossible for me.

  2. SomeChick says:

    I absolutely adore Dolly. I have seen her live and she is just so talented, warm, and an amazing performer, musician, and songwriter. Glamour magazine did a video with her watching covers of her songs on youtube, then showed her reactions to the yt musicians. It’s lovely.

    I can hardly wait to read the entire piece! Thanks for posting this.

  3. TeaForTwo says:

    I love her so much, and she is exactly what we need right now in 2020 and 2021. I love that she is genuine, focused, ambitious, doesn’t take herself to seriously, broke barriers up the yahoo for women, and that she is so wicked smart. #dollyforever

  4. Chaine says:

    I love her, but I wish there were strong women role models whose conception of a deity was not “he.”

    • Betsy says:

      That’s a hard one to let go of, and even if she did embrace a feminine deity, she’s unlikely to alienate so many of her fans.

      But in my house we say the old farm prayer but with the feminine pronoun, so I agree.

  5. Gina says:

    She truly is a national treasure!

    I agree with your comment Kaiser, there’s definitely something generational about “street ready”. My Mother is in her 70’s and regularly comments about how I look when going out in public. She doesn’t understand being comfortable enough to go out dressed in sweats, no make up,etc.

    • BW says:

      My mother was always “street ready” too. When she went into hospital for triple bypass (Twice!) , she insisted on wearing her makeup and having her good robe for walks down the hall. She looked so good, she intimidated the other heart surgery patients AND the doctors.

      Me? Give me Birkenstocks and no makeup and I’m happy.

      • Rosalee says:

        @BW That brings back one of my bittersweet memories, moments after my mother died one of the nurses told me my mother was adorable, she never saw her with a hair out of place, full makeup and even during my mother’s worst days she was without a doubt the best dressed patient she ever had. She smiled at me squeezed my hand and said my mother was on a mission to bring back hats.

  6. Bunny says:

    My dad’s side came from just a few miles from where Dolly grew up in Sevier County. My youngest aunt and Dolly are the same age. Not one of my aunts would go out of the house without makeup done, hair done, nails done, and dressed nice. They still wear pantyhose year round and roll their hair at night. Lipstick always.

    None of them had any money growing up, but they did their best with what they had. None would ever feel comfortable looking less than “pulled together” in public.

  7. JanetDR says:

    She’s so lovable! I also wish that she could just chill out more, but glamming up has always been her thing. At some point around 50, I just couldn’t wear heels anymore but I can’t bring myself to get rid of my favorite dancing shoes. I still love to go dancing, but no heels.

  8. ce says:

    The older you get the less sleep you require. Dolly is committed! I respect that but I am built differently lol

  9. Mrs. Smith says:

    I love Dolly!! Maybe you know this story already, but there was a huge forest fire that broke out a couple years ago that affected lots of residents near Gatlinburg in the Smoky Mtns/East Tenn. Lots of people lost everything they had. So Dolly collected all the names of the affected families and gave them $5000 a month until they could get back on their feet. I think it was around 100 families? Anyway, after 6 months, most had rebuilt homes and recovered, but as one last gesture, Dolly gave those families one more check for $10k each. And she gave them the check herself. The local news covered it. When Dolly walked up and gave them the money, I probably went through a whole box of tissues. It was such a stunningly generous thing to do. #dollyforever!!!

    • BW says:

      Wow! That tears me up. LOVE HER!

    • MM2 says:

      Thanks for posting this. It was a heartwarming story to google & read in the new year.

    • Persephone says:

      I love this story!!!! I love how she used her wealth for good.

    • Christin says:

      She used her foundation to award the money. Same with the library and probably the vaccine research grant.

      No doubt she personally gives, along with everyday people giving to the foundation that bears her name. After the fires, there were public drives to give to that fund within the greater region.

    • KhaoManee says:

      @ Mrs. Smith, That’s amazing. I wish our government would treat human beings the way Dolly does.

  10. Implicit says:

    You probably aren’t old enough to remember but Dolly is the one that normalized plastic surgery pretty much all on her own

    • Julie says:

      Is this a good thing though? She was a gorgeous woman who didn’t seem to see it and chose to quite literally risk her life and inflict unknown pain on herself in pursuit of a more conventional type of “beauty”. I love Dolly, her plastic surgery is by far the least appealing thing about her.

    • MM2 says:

      This is so extreme & silly. Dolly is/was a product of her own spirit, plus her time & place. Looks were seen as important & plastic surgery was a new advancement that was on the rise, which she used herself. Hate the game, not the player (i.e. blame misogyny & unattainable beauty standards, which Dolly was a victim of as well, not her).

  11. Merricat says:

    Dolly is a great human.

  12. BnLurkN4eva says:

    I loved her so much. I just think she’s a great person with a big ole heart who always remembers to be grateful for her privileges no matter far she climbs.

  13. Velvet Elvis says:

    I read the book Dolly wrote many years ago and she sort of explains why she stays street ready. She said that there was a certain glamorous star (unnamed) that she idolized, but when she met the star in person, Dolly was extremely disappointed because that person was totally dressed down and didn’t meet her star expectations. Dolly said she didn’t want to ever disappoint her own fans when they saw her, so she vowed to always be in full hair/makeup/costume.

  14. TriendnTried says:

    I was known in high school for having Looooved Dolly Parton- I listened to her music & had her pix allover my locker etc. I was an artsy dancer/early vegan, embarrassed x cheerleader by senior year. But she was so authentic & over the top, her music seemed both folksy and trendy, a real money maker yet full of genuine positivity. Her popularity was faded , but I was a die hard fan. Never met her or went to Dollywood, but am happy she has regained recognition- much deserved!!

  15. Sequinedheart says:

    I have loved her for as long as I can remember. I can recall at age 4/5 (late 80’s) playing ‘9 to 5’ on our stereo every morning and my mum was probably over it but she let me!!
    Now I have a 5yr old and she loves Dolly! Jolene, 2 doors down, 9 to 5, dumb blonde.. we listen to all of it & she sings along.
    Dolly is a role model, her gifts to humanity know no bounds.

  16. anniefannie says:

    My very favorite Dolly Parton line was when-being interviewed by Morley Safin he referred to her plastic surgery and make up and asked why she felt it was necessary, Dolly said “ Look
    Morey it’s takes a lot of money to look this cheap!”
    Dolly has always been ahead of the narrative. Couldn’t love her more❤️

  17. KhaoManee says:

    What a great interview. She’s such a delight! This was my favorite: “I have to be ambulance-ready at all times”

  18. Nikki* says:

    HUGE FAN of Dolly’s, for many years.

  19. Xiolablue1971 says:

    I am from the South and while my mother lives on a farm and is a bit more casual than Dolly, she also understands the value of being “street” ready and takes it seriously. My folks live in a part of NC that has lots of tornados and when there are warnings, she goes to bed (or into the basement) with all her clothes on, makeup on, and her weather radio nearby so that if the tornado takes out her house, she won’t be wandering around the neighborhood in her robe. She always says she doesn’t want to be interviewed on TV talking about the tornado that took her house dressed in curlers and a robe. 🙂

  20. Lolo says:

    I love Dolly but can we stop glorifying chronic sleep deprivation? Lack of sleep has been linked to so many health problems, including Alzheimer’s. (Case in point: Thatcher). It’s just part of that neoliberal grind culture that keeps us all feeling like we have to be productive automatons 24/7. Sleep is essential to health. Downtime is good. Maybe some people are wired to survive on very little sleep, but for most of us, it’s really harmful.