The Phenomenal Dolly Parton


The Phenomenal Dolly Parton

When I was 15, Dolly Parton hit the charts with Jolene and if someone had told me then that someday she would be my pick for a phenomenal woman, I would have a scoffed: back then she was just a country singer with embarrassingly big boobs (I was 15!), lots of curly blonde hair and glitter.

Perhaps back then Dolly hadn’t had time to grow into the phenomenal woman that she is now, or perhaps the world didn’t appreciate what a star she was to become. Referred to as the ‘Dolly Lama’ she frequently has something to say on almost every topic, be that life, love, work, beauty, social and political issues, religion, and she’s not afraid to speak up against all types of discrimination including that of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter – more of which I’ll share later.

At 75 she seems to be unstoppable having a career spanning over 50 years, written more than 3000 songs, won 10 Grammies, sold more than 100 million records and the list goes on. She’s not only a music legend but she’s also a very canny businesswoman, author, style icon and philanthropist.

Her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, has referred to her as being, ‘at her core, …the definition of a humanitarian’ which we saw early in the pandemic when she donated $1 million to COVID-19 vaccine research publicly used her voice to encourage everyone to take up the vaccine when it became available.

But this kindness and willingness to put herself forward isn’t a new persona just for publicity or social media memes – she’s been doing a lot of good since the mid 1980s when her career started to take off.

One area she is passionate about is children’s literacy and to date her program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has seen almost 850,000 children receive a book in the post each month from birth to kindergarten age, not only in America but across Canada, the UK, Australia and Ireland.

Perhaps one of my favourite philanthropic stories came about after the success of Whitney Houston’s version of ‘I Will Always Love You’. It’s reported that although the song had moderate success for Dolly herself, it was the 1992 version that featured in The Bodyguard that rocketed the royalties into millions.

And what did Dolly do? She invested some of that money in an old business complex in a historically black community that was run down and struggling: and she made sure that her investment trickled down to the black business community in the area. Speaking to Andy Cohen in a recent interview she explained that the decision to invest in that area took on more significance after Whitney died saying, ‘I love the fact that I spent that money on a complex and I think, ‘This is the house that Whitney built’.

Apart from being a songwriter, singer, philanthropist and businesswoman, Dolly has also turned her hand to acting and her debut was in one of my all-time favourites, 9-5, which celebrated it’s 40th anniversary last year. The movie dealt with discrimination against women in the workplace and created awareness of the National Association of Working Women. She received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year, the first of many such nominations. I’m delighted that these three magnificent women are about to star again in the last season of Grace & Frankie it’s sure to please.

From very humble roots – Dolly was 4th eldest in a large family of 12 children – she has overcome many major hurdles to get where she is today, but she never seems to forget her ‘dirt poor’ upbringing, “I always count my blessings more than I count my money,” said Parton during an interview with CBS Sunday Morning. “I don’t work for money, never did.”

That’s a wonderful attitude but not entirely surprising from Dolly as she has a reputation for her ‘Dollyisms’ – little pearls of wisdom from a woman who has her feet firmly planted in her faith and her humanity.

Latest Videos