When you meet Dolly Parton, you can’t help but wonder where the natural ends and the man-made begins. While she’s never been shy about crediting doctors and makeup artists for giving her what God left out, the depth of her sweetness and sincerity seems almost supernatural.
But spend a few minutes chatting with her, and once your eyes focus directly into hers and beyond some of her more ubiquitous assets, you discover there is an abundance of realness that outshines those glossy pink lips.
For a woman universally known, floating between generations and musical genres, Dolly knows what it’s like to be an outcast. She was taunted in school for her ambitions to become a famous singer, and was ridiculed for her poverty, which she later celebrated in her favorite song, “Coat of Many Colors.”
When she was a child, Parton was given a patchwork coat sewn from scraps of cloth, that her mother had labored over. Eager to show it off at school, Parton’s pride was shattered when kids teased her about her handmade wares. It was a schoolyard lesson in values and self-respect that inspired the song, years later.
“It’s more than a song, it’s an attitude. It's about a good mother, good parents. It's about showing you that you don't have to have money to be rich. You can be rich in spirit, kindness, love and all those things that you can't put a dollar sign on.”
Even now, as a woman controlling a multimillion dollar international empire, Dolly’s vulnerability resonates with fans who find themselves criticized or misunderstood by the public at large, including her legions of gay and lesbian devotees.
“I’ve always kinda been a little outcast myself, a little oddball, doin' my thing, my own way. And it's been hard for me to, to be accepted, certainly in the early years of my life. I'm accepted now, for the most part. But I think that they, they relate to the fact that I'm just open, and accepting.”
Now touring and promoting her latest album, “Blue Smoke,” Parton is once again rekindling that relationship with all her followers, and adding to an impressive career of more than 100 million record sales around the world.
And while she works to earn those Grammys – seven in all, along with the Lifetime Achievement Award - and navigates an industry once run by men, it seems logical to ask whether Dolly feels pressed to make everything sparkle and shine, all the time. Behind the rhinestones and lashes, the humility and humbleness of a poor girl from east Tennessee pull away the curtain to reveal a naturally beautiful woman.
“Oh, I'm not under any pressure, 'cause I'm not all that anyway. I mean, I can't help what other people say. I'm just a human bein' and I'm not always happy and I'm not always an angel, not even to my husband. But I try to, you know, to be as good a person as I can be. And it's -- it's amazin' to me, though, how kind people have been through the years. And -- and it's nice to know people say good things about you.”
ABC News' David Fazekas, Mary-Rose Abraham and Brian Fudge contributed to this episode.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Dolly Parton