Dolly Parton Says The Worst Career Advice She Ever Got Was To Tone Down Her Look: “I Wasn’t A Natural Beauty”

Dolly Parton country music
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There’s absolutely nobody in show business who works as hard as Dolly Parton.

At 77 years young, she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. From a perfume line, to a baking line and writing a novel with famous author James Patterson called Run, Rose, Run, and a forthcoming book about her iconic fashion looks on the way, she’s a businesswoman as much as she is country music artist.

And last year, the Queen of Country sat down with organizational psychologist Adam Grant for his WorkLife podcast to talk about her illustrious career and some of the bad advice she’d been offered throughout the decades.

The worst, she says, came from people telling her she needed to change her iconic look:

“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.”

I think it’s safe to say that ignoring those suggestions and following her heart was the best career advice she could’ve taken… and she gave it to herself, no less:

“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.

It was really like a look I was after. I wasn’t a natural beauty. I just like to look the way I look. I’m so outgoing inside, I need the way I look to match all of that.”

It’s hard to even imagine Dolly without all the big blonde wigs and makeup, and I don’t want to. She wouldn’t be herself without all of it. There’s a reason you can’t go into a single story anymore without seeing her face on something.

And of course, she’s said many times how she first modeled her look after the town tramp she used to see around as a kid growing up in east Tennessee, and she even told Oprah as such on The Oprah Conversation:

“I really patterned my look after the town tramp in our hometown, the trollop.

The one that would kind of walk up and down the streets, get in a car, ride off for a few minutes, come back and get in another car.”

Being so young at the time, Dolly didn’t know much else about the women (or her explicit business transactions, if you will), other than that’s exactly what she wanted to look like when she got older:

“I didn’t know anything about that part then. I just knew she was beautiful. She had all this beautiful blonde hair, red lipstick and makeup, tight short skirts and high heel shoes.

I just thought she was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen so I kind of patterned my look after that.”

Her grandfather, who was a preacher, believed that Satan had possessed Dolly after he saw her bleached hair, and hated that she wore so much makeup.

And her mom wholeheartedly agreed, asking God why she was being tested when her daughter moved to Nashville and started teasing her hair to high Heaven and painting her nails the brightest shade of red she could possibly find:

“The first time my Mama saw me all done up with blonde bleached hair all piled up, and my lips, cheeks and nails as red as I could get them, she screamed to the Lord, ‘Why are you testing me this way?’

And she told me the devil must have made me do it.”

Of course, Dolly, who has never been one to shy away from owning exactly who she is, set her momma straight:

‘Heck no,’ I told Mama. ‘Let’s give credit where it’s due: I did this all myself.’”

I wanna be Dolly Parton when I grow up…

Turn it up:

“Backwoods Barbie”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock