How Dolly Parton Responded to Barbara Walters When She Asked the ‘Dumb Blonde’ Singer if She Felt Like ‘A Joke’

Dolly Parton ain’t no dumb blonde. Everyone knows that by now. But toward the beginning of her career, when she was just starting to branch out on her own, there were people who were unsure of the Queen of Country‘s persona. In a famous interview with Barbara Walters in 1977, Parton was asked if she felt like she was a joke. Here’s how she responded.

A photo of Barbara Walters next to a photo of Dolly Parton, both from 1977.
Barbara Walters; Dolly Parton | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Chris Walter/WireImage

Barbara Walters told Dolly Parton she doesn’t need the ‘blonde wigs’ and ‘extreme clothes’

“You don’t have to look like this, you’re very beautiful, you don’t have to wear the blonde wigs, you don’t have to wear the extreme clothes, right?” asked Walters in the 1977 interview, as reported by Elle.

Of course Parton doesn’t have to. She wants to.

“It’s certainly a choice,” responded Parton, donning a larger-than-life blonde wig and bright turquoise jumpsuit. “I don’t like to be like everybody else. I would never stoop so low to be fashionable, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do.”

Barbra Walters asked Dolly Parton if she felt like ‘a joke’

“Do you feel like you’re a joke, that people make fun of you?” Walters continued.

The “9 to 5” singer has always been in on the joke. She wrote the joke herself. And she’s rewritten it over and over again for over 50 years.

“Oh I know they make fun of me, but all these years the people have thought the joke was on me, but it’s actually on them,” she said. “I am sure of myself as a person. I am sure of my talent. I’m sure of my love for life and that sort of thing. I am very content. I like the kind of person that I am. So I can afford to piddle around and do-diddle around with makeup and clothes and stuff because I am secure with myself.”

Dolly Parton also told Playboy Magazine why she dresses the way she does

The following year, Parton was interviewed by Playboy Magazine. Right away, the topic of Parton’s “outrageous” style came up once again.

“It’s fun for me,” said Parton. “It’s like a little kid playing with her paints and colors. I like to sit and tease my hair. If there’s something new on the market in make-up, I like to try it. You’ve got to have a gimmick. You’ve got to have something that will catch the eye and hold the attention of the public. But the funny thing is, no matter how much I try new stuff, I wind up looking just the same.”


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When the “Jolene” singer‘s interviewer asked her if she thought she was on her way to becoming a trend-setter, Parton laughed.

“Can you imagine anybody wanting to look this way for real?” she asked. “When people first get to know me, they say, ‘Why do you wear all of this?’ Then, after a week of knowing me, they totally understand. They know it’s just a bunch of baloney. But why not? Life’s boring enough, it makes you try to spice it up. I guess I just throw on a little too much spice.”