Dolly Parton Was Insecure About Her Looks: ‘The Quest for Beauty Has Always Been a Struggle’

Dolly Parton is known for her over-the-top style almost as much as her music. Many would agree the country singer is attractive, but Parton reveals she struggled with accepting her appearance. Here’s what Parton once said about the insecurity she battled for years.

Dolly Parton developed a love for makeup when she was a child

Dolly Parton | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns
Dolly Parton | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

In her book Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Parton says she was a tomboy, but she desired to be more feminine when she got older. She says she looked forward to visits from her aunts, because they would let her and her sister play with their makeup.

“We thought they were incredibly sophisticated and worldly,” wrote Parton. “Best of all, they had purses filled with lipstick and powder and eyeliner and all kinds of things we had no access to. This was the real ammunition in the battle of the sexes. They would sometimes let us explore these bags of ammo, and we would do so with all the awe you would expect from art lovers touring a museum.”

Dolly Parton says she struggled with trying to attain beauty

Parton says she put a lot of effort into looking beautiful, but she still doubted her looks. “The quest for beauty has always been a struggle for me,” wrote Parton.

“I can’t remember anybody ever saying that I was one of the more beautiful children they had ever seen,” she continued. “I was a pale, skinny little thing with corn teeth and hair that was fine and close to my head. And there were those hated freckles. You could not have said I was as ‘cute as a speckled pup’ without expecting the speckled pup to [pee] on your leg out of resentment.”

Dolly Parton wondered if she was related to her sisters

Dolly Parton in  1978 | Chris Walter/WireImage
Dolly Parton in 1978 | Chris Walter/WireImage

The country singer says there was even a time when she questioned if she was really related to her sisters because they were so beautiful. According to her, she had to work hard to look nice, but her sisters looked attractive without putting in as much effort.

“My sisters all had beautiful hair and would get home permanents,” wrote Parton. “No matter what I tried, it only made things worse. It was bad enough that I had doubts about my looks, without that fear being reinforced. Of course, I could always depend on my brothers to tell me how bad I looked, but in my mind, I could write that off as meanness. I sometimes wondered if I was indeed my parents’ child, since my sisters all looked so good.”

Parton says she knew in her heart that her mother wouldn’t cheat on her father. She knew she was related to her sisters and that her doubts were unfounded. However, she still felt insecure about how she looked.

Parton joked her insecurity is why the professionals who help her look good make so much money. “Those old seeds of doubt about my looks have grown into quite a bumper crop for many a makeup artist, wig maker, and plastic surgeon,” wrote Parton.

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