Dolly Parton released her first single, Puppy Love, in 1959. She was just 11 years old. Since that very early start, her career as a country-pop singer was on a trajectory to stardom. Not only did Parton’s voice reach number one on the Billboard country music charts an astonishing 25 times, but she’s also worked hard her entire life to break down the barriers faced by women country singers and pop stars.
And through it all, she’s remained steadfast in her determination to be herself. Whether it’s her big hair, thick makeup, or strong opinions, Dolly Parton is not one to back down in the face of harsh criticism. She embraced the idea of country girl glamor wholeheartedly and inspired women worldwide to find their personal style, too. “God is the judge, not us. I just try to be myself. I try to let everybody else be themselves,” she once said in an interview.
We all know what Dolly Parton looks like, but some of you might be wondering just what’s the story behind her signature look. Watch on to find out why Dolly Parton wears wigs, embraces plastic surgery, and refuses to tone herself down. The inspirations will surprise you!
Dolly Parton’s look was inspired by a hometown “trollop”
Dolly Parton often jokes that the look she’s so famous for today was actually based on the look of, let’s say, disreputable women from her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee–a small town at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. “That’s not a joke. That’s the honest truth. But it fits my personality, too,” she explained in an interview with Southern Living. Parton claims that she never thought she was a natural beauty, so she went for the over-the-top approach to make sure she stood out in the crowd of up-and-coming country singers. She wanted to be colorful. She wanted to be seen. She’s also never been offended by the dumb blonde jokes directed at her throughout her career. Why? Because she’s not dumb and not blond either, she says.
Tone it down? Dolly Parton toned it up!
Dolly Parton has forever been told her look is too much for someone so successful. Even close friends like Chet Atkins would say that she’s wearing too much makeup or needs more refined tastes if she wants people to take her seriously as a singer and songwriter. However, Parton’s always refused to meet other’s standards, saying that it means their interest is only in her body rather than what she can do. “I figure if my work were truly good enough, people would eventually recognize it,” Parton says. And she was right! Her so-called artificial look means nothing compared to her achievements as a writer, performer, and humanitarian.
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Dolly Parton’s look is carefully crafted to break down stereotypes
Even as a young artist, Dolly Parton quickly rejected the idea that women were supposed to look like “proper ladies.” With her big hair, unashamedly curvy figure, and trademark overdone makeup, she carved out a new space for women who wanted to do things differently from the norm. In fact, Parton’s look may be a clever commentary on the stereotypes women faced back when she was starting out in the music industry–and still today. By combining the “innocent country mountain girl” look with the “town tramp” persona and then making it bigger than most in the music industry, she showcases them for what they are: nonsense. Her unique looks are even inspiring famous fashion designers, like English star designer Hannah Weiland. “I particularly love her outfits from the early days. She had such an individual, strong sense of style that has always stayed true to who she is,” she told The Guardian.
Dolly Parton’s no stranger to plastic surgery and proud of it!
Dolly Parton has had several procedures done over the years, including breast and chin augmentation. Believing she was never a “natural beauty,” she’s all to enhance the assets that she does have and refine the rest through makeup, accessories, and yes, even plastic surgery. It’s Parton’s way of making the most of everything she’s been given, she explains. She’s revealed that she always sleeps with a face full of makeup since you never know when there’ll be an emergency. And she’s not shy to “tuck it, suck it, or pluck it” whenever she feels she needs a pick me up. We say if you’ve got the money, why not use it, right?
Dolly Parton has an extensive beauty routine
Industry commentators have said that Dolly Parton probably started having plastic surgery in her mid to late 40s since that’s the time her aging started to become noticeable. However, she’s clearly careful about how she goes under the knife, choosing skilled surgeons that aren’t prone to creating exaggerated features. According to doctors, Parton probably uses various moisturizers and recovery creams to keep her skin looking youthful. She also likely undergoes dermatological techniques like micro-needling and non-ablative and ablative lasers. Parton’s unique looks are not all the result of cosmetic treatments. She also lives a healthy and active lifestyle–even as she reaches her mid-70s!
Dolly Parton broke through the “men only” barrier
Back in the 60s and 70s, the country music scene was dominated by guys. Some well-known and successful women country stars, like Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, were few and far between. Luckily for Parton, she started her career at a time when the feminist movement was exploding. In fact, her first single with RCA was called Just Because I’m a Woman. It addressed the issues women faced back then, and sadly, she says, still face today. Another popular song from her early records was Dumb Blonde. It was about a far-from-dumb woman making her way into the world by herself after being ditched by her man. Today, this indomitable country singer has an estimated net worth of around $500 million. Need any more proof that Dolly Parton has managed to succeed in a man’s world?
Dolly Parton was one of the first country-pop stars
Dolly Parton was dabbling in pop music well before Taylor Swift, or Miley Cyrus (who happens to be Dolly Parton’s goddaughter) ditched their country careers to dominate the pop charts. Though male singers like Elvis Presley had taken country mainstream, Parton was one of the first woman performers to do so. But while radios around the country were blaring out Parton’s hit singles, there was backlash back in Nashville. People complained that Parton was ditching country music for the limelight. You just can’t win, right? Anyway, in typical Dolly style, Parton wasn’t fazed by the criticism. She cemented her success in the pop industry with the woman-centered number one hit 9 to 5 in 1981 and even did a spot of acting. You can spot her famous face in films like 9 to 5, Rhinestone, and Steel Magnolias.
Who hasn’t Dolly Parton influenced?
When you think of one woman in country music, Dolly Parton is likely the first singer to pop into your mind. And that’s the way it was for so many up-and-coming women and even men country singers. Superstars like Deana Carter, Jennifer Nettles, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and Carrie Underwood all claim Parton as one of their biggest influences. Why? They all say it’s because of her talent and empire-building ambition, but also because of her down-to-nature attitude, friendliness, and humility. “She just handles everything with grace and humor and a smile, and I feel like she’s just the most disarming person in the world,” Carrie Underwood once said.
Dolly Parton’s high voice didn’t hinder her
Today, Dolly Parton’s soprano voice and decadent vibrator are iconic, even though she’s famously and hilariously referred to her voice as a cross between “Tiny Tim and a nanny goat.” But when she first began her career as a performer, music execs were disdainful of it. They just didn’t think her sound would work when it came to county music. In fact, she was rejected by RCA on her first attempt to sign with them because the heads thought she “sounded like a screech owl.” Her first songs were actually pop songs because no studio wanted to sign her as a country star, but she pushed through, determined to make it in her favorite genre. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Dolly Parton is a shrewd businessperson
Just ten years after she released her first single at the tender age of 11, she was being handed her first Grammy nomination. The year was 1969. At that time, the average woman earned just a little over half of what the average man made. And women had had enough of the inequality of age. Parton took full advantage of the opportunities opening up for women in the business world, determined to prove she was more than a pretty face with a good voice. She set out to craft a brand, developing a long-term business model that paved the way for other women pop stars. For example, in 1986, she opened Dollywood, which continues to be one of the most visited theme parks in the world.
Dolly Parton is a career-making example for other women artists
Dolly Parton doesn’t label herself a feminist, but there’s no doubt others have done it for her. She far from simply broke down barriers for women working in the entertainment industry… she shattered them! Today, there are few country stars that don’t count Parton among their mentors. In 2019, Taylor Swift battled it out with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, who purchased her entire back catalog and forbade her from performing her old songs. You could easily credit Parton with paving the way for stars like Swift to feel empowered to fight back in an unequal industry.
Do you think that Dolly’s Parton’s signature look hindered her career? Or do you think her individuality drove her success? Post your thoughts alongside other Dolly fans in the comment section below. Want more videos like this? Head over to the Facts Verse channel to hit the subscribe button and click that little notification bell. And don’t forget to like and share this video while you’re at it.