In­side My Pri­vate World

The larger-than-life (and 5ft-tall) icon opens up about her real life, her decades-span­ning mar­riage and how she stays so young at heart

WHO - - Fashion - By Melody Chiu

Dolly Par­ton isn’t one to be caught of­f­guard. “If I go to the gro­cery store, I’ll dress like me be­cause if I’m go­ing to see some­body, I’d rather them say, ‘I saw Dolly at the gro­cery store, and she was so over­done,’ than say, ‘God, I saw Dolly at the gro­cery store, and she looked like hell!’ ” says the coun­try le­gend, her lilt­ing laugh fill­ing the room. At 72, with nearly 60 years of show­biz un­der her belt, she’s al­ways pre­pared and knows ex­actly what she wants. As with her iconic, over-thetop style: “I don’t like to not look like me,” says the singer, who ar­rives cam­era-ready and 30 min­utes early for her WHO photo shoot with her sig­na­ture blonde mane coiffed, char­coallined eyes shin­ing and lips per­fectly painted. Her in­fec­tious charm is also at the ready, and the ever-pri­vate star is not op­posed to us­ing it as a shield when she needs to. Find­ing her­self open­ing up as never be­fore about her per­sonal life, she sud­denly pauses for a mo­ment. “What does this have to do with Dumplin’ ?” she asks her­self as much as any­one else, re­fer­ring to her lat­est project – a Net­flix film star­ring Jen­nifer Anis­ton. But it’s that bal­ance of sass and savvy that has fu­elled her amaz­ing jour­ney.

Beloved for her un­shak­able sense of self, Par­ton wasn’t al­ways so con­fi­dent in her skin. Born in a one-room cabin in the tiny town of Pittman Cen­ter, Ten­nessee, the singer was the fourth of 12 chil­dren raised by Robert Lee Par­ton, a farmer, and his homemaker wife, Avie Lee. “I grew up in a very poor fam­ily with no ma­te­rial things. I had to claw and scratch my way through ev­ery­thing,” says Par­ton. With five sis­ters and six broth­ers, she strug­gled to find her place and also bat­tled body-im­age is­sues. “I’m a hog at heart,” says the star, who co-wrote six new songs on the sound­track for Dumplin’. The mu­si­cal com­edy, based on the young-adult novel of the same name by Julie Mur­phy, tells the story of an over­weight teen who is the daugh­ter of a former beauty queen (played by Anis­ton) and draws in­spi­ra­tion from Par­ton’s mu­sic.

Though she ce­mented her sta­tus as a bona fide star in the ’70s with No. 1 hits like “Jo­lene” and “I Will Al­ways Love You”, be­fore break­ing through in Hol­ly­wood in 1980 with her first fea­ture film, 9 to 5, Par­ton says she faced strug­gles in the spot­light. “I can cer­tainly re­late to what girls go through in their young years and even in their adult years,” she says. “I’ve been up and down with my weight. I’ve been a Dumplin’, and in­side of me there’s a Dumplin’

still try­ing to get out.” With her par­tic­i­pa­tion in the film, Par­ton hopes to help girls with sim­i­lar is­sues. “It’s not easy for any­body, but it’s good to let them know it’s OK to be you.”

Par­ton feels most like her­self in­side the pri­vate world she shares with hus­band Carl Thomas Dean, whom she met at just 18 years old. Cel­e­brat­ing 52 years of mar­riage this year, the cou­ple are never pho­tographed pub­licly, and Dean shuns the spot­light. Much un­like her, “my hus­band doesn’t like to dress up,” says Par­ton. “Our life is sim­ple but easy. We don’t even have that much com­pany at home. We just like to be to­gether.” On her days off, the ­Nashville­based cou­ple en­joy mini road trips in their RV and quiet pic­nics in the coun­try­side near their Ten­nessee home. After more than five decades to­gether, date night is low-key. “He loves Mex­i­can food, and we know a few lit­tle places we can go with­out be­ing both­ered,” says Par­ton. “He only likes to go places where he can be com­fort­able.” Par­ton, of course, still gets dolled up at home – “I pull my hair up in a lit­tle scrunchie and roll it with lit­tle hot rollers and al­ways try to look cute” – but the star is con­fi­dent it’s her in­ner beauty he loves most. Says Par­ton, “He doesn’t care what I wear as long as I’m happy. He loves me the way I am.”

Two years ago the cou­ple re­newed their vows in an over-the-top cel­e­bra­tion held at their home. “I never re­ally felt like I had the wed­ding that we wanted, so we de­cided to get mar­ried again,” says Par­ton. When they got hitched in 1966, the fledg­ling singer had been asked by her record la­bel to stay un­wed. In true form she re­belled and snuck over to a “lit­tle church” in Ring­gold, Ge­or­gia, with Dean to ex­change vows. “We’d al­ready sent out in­vi­ta­tions, and I thought, ‘I ain’t wait­ing!’ ” re­calls Par­ton. “I had a lit­tle white dress and lit­tle flow­ers. My mom went with me and made me a lit­tle bou­quet.” At their vow re­newal Par­ton fi­nally got to wear the “big, long gown and veil” she’d al­ways en­vi­sioned. “He got all dressed up, I got all dressed up and we did a beau­ti­ful cer­e­mony,” she says about the spe­cial day. “It’s been a good 50 years, and I don’t know how many more years we’ll have left. Fifty years is a long time for any­thing.”

Just as long-last­ing: her en­dur­ing ca­reer. Called “un­stop­pable” by Rolling Stone in the 1980s, the en­ter­tainer has con­tin­ued to rein­vent her­self. Since mak­ing her de­but in 1959, Par­ton has recorded more than 45 stu­dio al­bums, ap­peared in a dozen films, formed her own pro­duc­tion com­pany and even opened a wildly suc­cess­ful theme park, Dolly­wood. Next year Net­flix will re­lease an eight-part an­thol­ogy se­ries she ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced based on her songs. “Sleep’s no big deal to me. I just do that ’cause it’s nec­es­sary,” says Par­ton. “The older you get, the less you need. I don’t want to miss any­thing.”

“Every­one should be able to love who they love, how they love. Love is many colours but love is love”

She’s not ex­ag­ger­at­ing. Ev­ery day, Par­ton wakes up at 3am. “I get more work done by seven in the morn­ing than most peo­ple get done all day, be­cause it’s quiet time,” she says. It’s also when she finds her peace. “I spend a lot of time in the morn­ings with my med­i­ta­tion and my pray­ers and talk­ing to God,” she says. “After that I’ll have my cof­fee.” While she’s care­ful about her diet, she still in­dulges in her favourite south­ern dishes. “I can’t eat as much of it as I’d like to or as I used to, but I still have to have chicken and dumplings, pork roast, fried corn and fried okra,” she says.

She also loves cook­ing, a bit­ter­sweet pas­time that re­minds her of her “Mama,” Avie – who died in 2003 and was the rock of her fam­ily. “Mama’s gone now, but she’s not gone in our mem­ory and in our cook­ing.” She’s also re­mem­bered in song. “When I sing ‘Coat of Many Colours’, that’s very per­sonal to me,” says Par­ton. “I’m al­ways singing that to Mama. After [she] passed, it was re­ally hard for me to per­form that song … I would of­ten cry.”

Par­ton never be­came a mother her­self, but with a host of nieces, as well as god­daugh­ter Mi­ley Cyrus and her mil­lions of fans, “every­one thinks I’m their aunt,” she says with a laugh. “Now that I’m older, I re­alise I didn’t have kids of my own so ev­ery­body’s kids could be mine. I try to write songs that touch peo­ple’s lives be­cause ev­ery­body touches mine.” As long as the world will have her, Par­ton has no plans to slow down.

“I never think about re­tir­ing. I just hope I fall dead in the mid­dle of a song, hope­fully one I wrote, right on­stage,” she jokes, slip­ping back into her lov­able, quotable self. “I fig­ure I’ll sleep when I’m dead. At this rate I will be soon!” Par­ton’s life is richer than she ever thought pos­si­ble, and it’s not some­thing she takes for granted. “When I was younger, I used to won­der what my life would be like, ’cause I al­ways wanted to do some­thing to touch peo­ple,” she says. “I am grate­ful that I’ve seen my dreams come true.”

“There’s a whole lot to be said for lov­ing your work and hav­ing con­fi­dence in your­self. God gave me a gift, and he meant for me to use it”

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