Things You Might Not Know About Dolly PartonPublished on March 22, 2016. Updated January 17, 2020
Dolly Parton is a musical legend and trailblazer in the industry as one of the most honored female country performers of all time. She’s been singing since the early ’60s and experienced huge commercial success as a musical performer, singer, and songwriter. Some of her most popular hits are “Here You Come Again,” “Islands in the Stream,” and “9 to 5.” Dolly is one of the most Grammy-nominated artists with 41 top 10 country albums and 110 charted singles in the past 40 years! She has 8 Grammy wins, 2 Academy Award nominations, 10 CMA Awards, 7 Academy of Country Music Awards and 3 American Music Awards. She’s also only one of 7 females to have ever won the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award. Dolly Parton has been around for a long time, but there’s still a lot to know about this female artist! Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the country singer.
10. Charity Work
One of the best things about Dolly Parton is that she has a huge heart. She has used her platform as a celebrity to get involved in charity work, especially in the area of literacy through her Dollywood Foundation. In 1996 she founded Imagination Library to encourage literacy in her home state of Tennessee. The program is designed to mail age-appropriate books nationwide, as well as to Canada, the U.K., and Australia. Since it opened she has donated 45 million books and the program itself has continuously distributed approximately 10 million free books annually. Not only does this program promote a great cause, it’s also brought a lot of jobs to a region that struggles economically, fulfilling another goal of hers which is to create jobs.
9. Look-Alike Contest
She once entered into a Dolly Parton look-alike contest and lost! In an interview with ABC, Parton admitted a couple years ago she entered a Halloween contest on Santa Monica Boulevard where all these guys were dressed in drag to look like her, she said: “I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage. I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.” She said she at least got some applause, but they all thought she was a “short little gay man.”
8. Dolly the Sheep
In 1996 there was a huge scientific breakthrough in biology when scientists successfully cloned a sheep from an adult mammal’s somatic cell. To top it all off, the sheep was named Dolly after Dolly Parton. So what was it about Dolly that was so inspiring? Well, it was none other than her sizable bust. In an interview, scientist Ian Wilmut said, “Dolly is derived from a mammary gland and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s.”
7. Her Net Worth
Dolly Parton is a showbiz veteran who has been performing huge hit songs for over 40 years. Not only is she an amazing singer and songwriter, she has also written a few books and is quite the savvy businesswoman who owns a theme park and a film and television production company. She started out as a child performer recording songs from the young age of 13, and at 18-years-old she moved to Nashville to begin her commercial career. She has written approximately 5,000 songs in the span of her career. She wrote her first song about her corn-cob doll before she was even able to write — her mother had to write down the lyrics for her. She’s recorded 50 original albums, but if we include all of her compilations, EP’s, and holiday albums it brings her up to 200! She’s acted in 12 films and done countless TV appearances — it’s no wonder her net worth is extremely high at an estimated $500 million!
6. Dolly’s Appearance
Dolly Parton is not only well recognized for her musical success, she has also become famous for her cartoon-like appearance. She’s been extremely candid and open about manufacturing her look. As Dolly’s success grew she became extremely unhappy with the way she looked. When she was 14-years-old she used burnt matchsticks for eyeliner, antiseptic Merthiolate for lipstick and dyed her hair with peroxide. Right before she moved to Nashville at 17-years-old her image began to take shape, “I’ve made a fortune looking cheap,” she said. “But I’m nobody’s fool. When I was starting out, people didn’t take me seriously. I always looked like I could be had, but the truth was, I couldn’t.” Dolly is definitely a confident woman, but in an interview with Marie Claire, she admitted it hasn’t always been that way. At the age of 36 she underwent a partial hysterectomy and was told she could never have children. “I went through a dark time. I was starting my menopause and was feeling guilty about my success. Maybe I was thinking that I’d been selfish not to have had children.” She began to gain weight and even contemplated suicide. She credits none other than Sylvester Stallone for saving her during this time when the two co-starred together in the film, Rhinestone.
5. Miley Cyrus’ God Mother
Dolly Parton is Miley Cyrus’s godmother. In an interview with ABC, Dolly described herself as an “honorary godmother,” and that she’s known Miley since she was a baby. She said, “Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, ‘You just have to be her godmother,’ and I said, ‘I accept.’ We never did do a big ceremony, but I’m so proud of her, love her and she’s just like one of my own.” Dolly has even made guest appearances on the show Hannah Montana as Aunt Dolly.
4. Dolly’s Childhood
Dolly Parton has 11 siblings, she’s the fourth born and her family was extremely poor when she was growing up. Her family grew up in a small cabin in the backwoods mountains of Tennessee with no running water, indoor plumbing or electricity. When describing her childhood home she said, “You know they always talk about two rooms and a bath? We had two rooms and a path. We’d have running water when we’d run to get it. We didn’t have any electricity…if fireflies were out, we’d catch them in a mason jar and put them in our bedroom.” Dolly said growing up in a home with so many siblings made her crave attention from her parents who were understandably too busy to give it. She began making up songs and playing the guitar for whoever would listen. Her uncle was a musician named Bill Owens and he got her a spot singing on local television and on radio stations at the age of 9-years-old.
Dolly Parton has owned Dollywood for 30 years since 1986. Dollywood is a theme park for all ages and has about 2.5 million visitors each year. The park is the biggest employer in Sevier County, her hometown since she was 18-years-old. When she left after high school she made a vow that she would come back and create more employment for the people that lived there. Another fun fact: Dolly hasn’t been on any of the rides in her park because she is terrified and suffers from motion sickness.
2. Her Relationship with Porter Wagoner
Dolly Parton started her career singing and touring with Porter Wagoner and spent 8 years on The Porter Wagoner Show, but in 1974 she announced that she would be going out on her own for a solo career. There was a lot of bad blood between the two when Porter sued her for breach of contract. In an interview with CMT she explained it all: “We fought a lot…he believed he knew what was best for me, too, and I believed that I knew more what was best for me at that time…there was a lot of grief and heartache there, and he just wasn’t listening to my reasons for going.” The rift inspired her hit song, “I Will Always Love You,” but the two were estranged for many, many years. They weren’t able to repair the relationship until about 2007, right before Wagoner died of lung cancer. Parton told Knoxville’s News Sentinel she was with him on the day that he passed: “It was really, really hard. I held his hand, and we prayed. Porter’s soul was already with God. All that was left was a shell.”
1. A Proposition from Elvis Presley
Her hit “I Will Always Love You” was propositioned by Elvis Presley. Presley’s manager reached out to Dolly to ask about doing a cover of the song, but part of the deal was that she had to surrender half of her publishing rights. She refused. She said people told her she was nuts for turning them down but said, “I can’t do that. Something in my heart says don’t do that. And I didn’t do it and they didn’t do it.” Later on, Whitney Houston’s cover of that song for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a huge hit and it’s all paid off for Parton, over and over again.