Dolly Parton: People advised me to ‘not look so cheap, go simpler with my hair’

As I get older, I understand more and more that my idea of “glamorous” might actually be pretty tacky. I also think Southerners have a different idea of glamour and style than, say, Californians or New Yorkers. I like when things look pulled together, when everything matches or coordinates well. I like animal prints, fluffy hairstyles, and French manicures. I think that stuff looks great. And I love the way Dolly Parton looks – she’s glittery, flashy, shiny and “made up.” Would her style work on every woman? No, but it works perfectly on Dolly. Dolly was recently on the WorkLife podcast with Adam Grant, and she spoke about her style and why she feels glamorous in her rhinestones and wigs.

Dolly on the advice she’s received over the years: “The main advice that people wanted to give me was to change my look – to go simpler with my hair and the way that I dress. Not to look so cheap, nobody was ever going to take me seriously, they would say.”

Her origin story: “The way I look and the way I looked then was a country girl’s idea of glam, just like I wrote in my ‘Backwoods Barbie’ song. People wanted me to change, they thought I looked cheap. But I patterned my look after the town tramp. Everybody said, ‘She’s trash.’ And in my little girl mind, I thought, ‘Well, that’s what I’m going to be when I grow up.’ It was really like a look I was after. I wasn’t a natural beauty. So, I just like to look the way I look. I’m so outgoing inside in my personality, that I need the way I look to match all of that.”

She’s so busy: “I’ve got so many irons in the fire that sometimes I’m burning my own butt. I have to get up earlier, I have to work longer, and I have to have a bigger cup of ambition in the morning to get it all done… I don’t have time to burn out, I’m burning up. I’m a creative person and every new thing will create something else … energy begets energy and creativity begets creativity, so I just really have to stay with it because I want to see things happen, I want to make things happen.”

How she relaxes: After a stressful work day, Parton said she likes to spend time at home with her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, and either cook or read. She also turns to her relationship with God for comfort: “I always say when things are bad I pray, when they get worse, I pray harder.”

She doesn’t swell on past mistakes. “I like to enjoy my work, I like to have it be fun, and I like the people around me to have fun doing it. My biggest regret is I have no regrets.”

[From People & CNBC]

I feel like crying whenever I read interviews with Dolly. She just has it figured out. She never misses! Think of all of the things she’s gotten right just in recent years, from the pandemic (she partially funded the Moderna vaccine) to Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ-allyship. She’s amazing. The one thing I’ll knock her for is that she was always a beautiful woman – she says “I wasn’t a natural beauty,” but she absolutely was. And still is, her beauty shines through no matter what.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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43 Responses to “Dolly Parton: People advised me to ‘not look so cheap, go simpler with my hair’”

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  1. Julia K says:

    “I have no regrets” says it all. She made her own path with hard work. Love her.

  2. Mrs. Smith says:

    Dolly is the one celebrity that would make me starstruck. I like to think I’m cool as a cucumber, but I’m pretty sure I would get overwhelmed and blubber like a fool in her presence. I’m glad Kaiser admitted to wanting to cry reading Dolly’s interviews—whew! I thought it I was the only one!

  3. TIFFANY says:

    Dolly never missed, not even when she started her career she was hitting it out of the park. And someone had the audacity to tell a successful woman to ‘not look so cheap’.

    The nerve I tell you, the nerve. *inhales in Black woman*

    Also HONK for more stories about Dolly.

    • delphi says:

      *honks like a rabid goose*

      Dolly is one of those celebrities (and a person in general) who makes me instantly feel better when I see her. She is just so genuine, warm, and gives NO effs whatsoever. And that’s awesome. 😊

      On a side note, I am not only currently rocking a French manicure, but a matching pedicure, to boot. Spring has sprung in the South and I am representing. 😉

    • Mmmkay says:


  4. JFerber says:

    I always loved her quip about how much money it took to look that cheap. My hat’s off to her.

    • Ines says:

      Love her! And to be fair, I don’t think she looks cheap. It might not work on other people, but on her… it’s just her look and she looks fabulous.

  5. mia girl says:

    Can you imagine telling the woman who wrote “Joleen” and “I Will Always Love You” in the same night that she needs to change her look to be more successful?! SMH

  6. Jais says:


  7. SarahCS says:

    I love her and everything about her, we are so lucky to have this woman.

    Did anyone else sing the ‘cup of ambition’ line in their heads as they were reading this? I now have the ‘duh duh duh duh’ tune playing in mine.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Well I didn’t until you mentioned it & then googled it, now it’s there! That song still rings true, to this day! Which is sad, when you come to think of it.

  8. Mslove says:

    I feel like crying too when I read her interviews. She truly is a national treasure.

  9. Bettyrose says:

    I adored Dolly as child and here I am with three shots of Moderna having more respect for her than ever.

  10. Joy Angela Penton Gough says:

    My kids thought that her actual name was Queen Dolly Parton because thats what I’ve always called her. I’m Canadian and I recognize Queen Dolly as my Monarch not that paedophile enabler over in England. Everything about her is magical. Her voice, her look, her attitude and opinions and yes she is a natural beauty whether she thinks so or not.

    • HoofRat says:

      Do you think we can petition our MPs to get her portrait on our money? I think we should start with the loonie, just so everyone has a smile on their faces when they pick up a shopping cart or buy a snack from a vending machine.

    • Roo says:

      @JoyAngela, have you seen Derry Girls, the show about the young girls growing up in the 90s in Ireland? One of the moms makes her daughter swear upon Dolly (pointing to the portrait hanging in the house) that she’s telling the truth. LOL. And I agree with you that Dolly is a Queen.

  11. Twin Falls says:

    She has always known that self acceptance is self love and the secret to true success and happiness in life. I’m so impressed by that. Her combination of talent, integrity and passion for life is one of a kind.

    Honk for Dolly!

  12. CatSquad says:

    The higher the hair, the closer to God. It is known.

    Kaiser, you nailed it that Dolly’s style works perfectly for Dolly. It wouldn’t for everyone. But, it would not matter what her physical appearance because the light in her, the confidence and kindness, would shine through and THAT is beauty.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I’m an 80s girl and I approve this message.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        Yup!! And when she started performing she had the beehive too! Dolly Parton is a national treasure and should be treated as such! I also love and adore her retelling the story of the town trap that she tells. I love how she looked at the woman and didn’t judge her but wanted to emulate her. She has the heart of gold!!

        How can we ever get enough of Dolly in our lives. We can’t!!!

  13. BrainFog 💉💉💉😷 says:

    Not a fan of her music but she seems to be a really amazing person. Love her. Love that she doesn’t bend to other people’s ideas. And she looks freaking amazing!

  14. Jananell Gibson says:

    Dolly came to Troy State University when i was in college 1976. The guys who were elected to greet her melted like butter in her presence. God we were all so thrilled.

  15. Jan90067 says:

    Not a country music fan, but I love Dolly’s interviews, so HONK HONK for Dolly stories!

    Kaiser, I’m with you about French manicures (even though I live in So Cal lol). It’s my default look 95% of the time (sometimes I’ll do Madera Wine or Big Apple Red in the winter months for a change, and Funny Bunny in the summer, but rare).

    Just on a lark for a special outfit, I did the “Chanel French Tip” ( and it looked great! It’s a “French Tip”, but with beigy-pink on the nail bed, and *black* on the tip. My tips followed the curve of my nail rather than so straight across though. I really liked it, but looking down (at first) I thought I got the tip(s) of my nails dirty! lol.

    Back to the “normal” FT this week 😊

    • BeanieBean says:

      Oh, I love that! I’ve long wanted a pair of Chanel Mary Jane’s with the black toe cap, but the manicure might be all I can afford!

    • Bettyrose says:

      Not a country fan but my parents listened to Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson when I was growing up, alongside folk and R & B with political/class undertones. I don’t recognize the world of country that exists now, that plays at political rallies for billionaires rather than supporting the plight of workers (a relevant point today on International Worker’s Day). But my feelings about the musical genre are secondary to my affection for what it once was.

  16. Jo says:

    I love how she always goes back to the fascination with “the town tramp”. Love, love love it. A thought for “the town tramp”, probably vilified and not deemed part of the good society.
    Whatever gives us confidence is how we should go. For her it is a very well put together look, for Tig Notaro, it’s cargo trousers and a blazer. Both are confident, generous, hard working, caring and humble.
    I also have a lump in my throat whenever I read her.

  17. Candy says:

    Just love her, she’s like the mom we all want! I have infertility like her and she always inspires me with her candid, honest personal stories. Love love love her.

  18. Joanna says:

    I love Dolly so honk honk!

  19. Jaded says:

    “I wasn’t a natural beauty.”

    Dolly, I beg to differ — you are and have always been a gorgeous woman, inside and out.

  20. Still In My Robe says:

    I did not grow up with Dolly Parton singing her own songs. I loved Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” and the White Stripes’ “Joleen.” UNTIL I heard Dolly singing them. The voice of an angel, and what an incredibly talented songwriter.

    My mom was an extra in a movie with Dolly filmed in Chicago in the 90s. She became such a huge fan, because was absolutely kind, attentive, and funny to EVERY person on the set, no matter their level. She also said Dolly stands about 5 ft. tall naturally and stands on her tiptoes in every set of heels she wears (and she’s never not in heels). A huge person and personality in a very petite package. (Excepting certain famous attributes, of course.)

  21. Amy T says:

    📯📯📯📯 {honking}

  22. Blueskies says:

    Such a beautiful human being inside and out. Add me to the group who cries reading her interviews! It’s not just her genuine thoughts and feelings but hearing her voice, too, it’s so lovely.

    For anyone who may not have seen this before, Dolly singing in an Irish pub in 1990:

  23. Lucy says:

    I love Dolly, and I especially love in old interviews when she’s asked about her hair and she cheerfully says it’s a wig.

    Also, the dresses in these pictures I just saw on a high school classmates fb. She owns an agency that provides pretty girls to host duck unlimited banquets? Anyway, it was surprising to recognize dresses from 20-40 year olds as the ones Dolly is rocking.

  24. Elle says:

    ‘I want to look like the town trump’ might sound cute now, but at the time was extraordinarily bold and contentious. I cannot put into words my admiration.

  25. Mina_Esq says:

    I’m not a Southerner. I grew up with a diplomat dad and have been around wealth my entire life. And I don’t think Dolly looks cheap. She fits the context. She is an entertainer. I am always struck by how cheap Kylie Jenner looks, especially when she is carrying, like, two Chanel bags at once. It’s obscene. Money can’t buy class. Beauty shines from within, no matter what you wear. Dolly is a class act.

  26. Anna says:

    For European eyes, many Americans (especially Southerners) look tacky and cheap. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Dolly can’t do wrong though. She can wear whatever she wants and cake on a ton of make up and will always be amazing. She is f***ing Dolly Parton.

    • Mina_Esq says:

      Ouch! America gave the world blue jeans. Even YSL said he wished he had invented it. Not to mention boat shoes and button down shirts. Rich middle aged dads all across Europe are surely grateful 🙂

  27. apaintedballerina says:

    Dolly is like sipping a mug of warm apple cider. You get happy Winnie the Pooh noises. 🙂

    Signed in just to HONK FOR DOLLY!!