How Dolly Parton Overcame the Embarrassment Over Meanspirited Jokes About Her Looks

Dolly Parton is quick with a self-deprecating joke, but that doesn’t mean that she’s always been comfortable with poking fun at herself. Early in her career, she received comments on her appearance that were rude, lewd, and everything in between. She often felt embarrassed by these kinds of remarks. Soon though, she realized a way to overcome this embarrassment. 

Dolly Parton wears a yellow dress in front of a black background.
Dolly Parton | Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Dolly Parton revealed where she found the inspiration for her signature look

For most of her time in the public eye, Parton has stuck to a sequined studded glamour. She wears bright colors, heavy makeup, and towering wigs. She revealed that this look appealed to her from a very young age

“When I was little, I patterned my look after the town trollop,” she said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “I thought she was the most beautiful thing. She had all this makeup and hair and all the tight clothes and everything I wanted, so it impressed me.”

As a guest on The Oprah Conversation, Parton added that she took further beauty inspiration from old magazines. 

“I always loved the Frederick’s of Hollywood magazines,” she said. “That was just kind of to me how I felt like I wanted to look.”

She used to be embarrassed about comments on her looks

Beyond her music, acting, and business, Parton is famous for her looks, figure, and clothing. To this day, people poke fun at her appearance. Early on, this upset her. Ultimately, though, she came to an empowering realization about the comments. 

“In the early days, I think it used to bother me when people [made fun of me],” Parton said to Winfrey. “It didn’t change me. It didn’t make me do it different, but I kind of get a little embarrassed sometimes if somebody made too much fun of it. That was when I knew they didn’t know who all I was or what all I was.”

She expanded on this to The Independent: “Although my look may make some people uncomfortable, it makes me comfortable. If I’m comfortable with who I am and how I present myself, then it allows my creativity and my personality to shine.”

This understanding allowed her to avoid the sting of the hurtful comments. She has also gotten ahead of them by dropping self-deprecating jokes about herself. She’s often quick with a bit of humor about her appearance.

Dolly Parton often jokes about her appearance

One of the more famous Dolly-isms is her one-liner, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” She’s employed this kind of humor for a long time. While presenting at awards shows, she cracks jokes about herself and is happy to do so in interviews as well. In a conversation with Jimmy Fallon, she told a convoluted origin story about her “biggest assets.”

According to Parton, she was speaking with an old man at a restaurant. When she got up to pay, she learned that the man stuck her with his bill as well.

“So that old man had come over and kind of scammed us,” she explained. 

When she confronted the man and said she would have been happy to pay if he’d just asked, Parton said the man started hitting her across the chest with his walking stick. When Fallon asked what happened next, she responded in typical Dolly fashion.

“What do you mean, what happened?” she said. “These two big lumps came up, and they never did go down.”

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