Dolly Parton is my idol. Since aged 7 when I first heard Coat of Many Colours. Dolly provides a strong and sassy icon amongst a plethora of bouffant warblers submissively standing by their man. Dolly on the other hand, prefers to stick it to him. Anyone who underestimates her based on her extravagant appearance soon get’s shot down- “I’m not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know that I’m not dumb. I also know I’m not blonde.” Despite having heard her catchphrases and anecdotes numerous times she still fascinates me and her ability to pun is second to none, speaking of which at her Backwoods Barbie tour I cried with the vigour of a Buble fan at her epic performance and watched in awe as she masterfully played guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and pennywhistle with the longest finger nails I have ever seen.
She is a unified collection of completely conflicting stereotypes encased within a plethora of glitter, rhinestones and fringing. She has a song for every occasion- Potential New Boyfriend (pre-pub soundtrack), Heartbreaker (nostalgic Sunday morning soundtrack), Put a Little Love in your Heart (It’s literally impossible to listen to this song and not strut, imagining yourself appearing in the opening credits of Your Life: The Movie) and not forgetting He’s alive (when only a bit of gospel will do).
Dolly manages to be ridiculous but not a joke, defiant but not a diva (she is known as the ‘iron butterfly’) and authentic despite the style-artifice. For me she epitomises the contradictory and conflicting principles of the third-wave. Her style was inspired by the local town prostitute, who a 15 year old Dolly thought the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. The Jessica Rabbit figure and huge blond hairdo combination swerves femme fatale and is a playful creation of the ultimate collection of male desires. However, she manages to ‘own it’ rather than be passively objectified. She is strong in her conviction that this is how she likes to look and frankly if you don’t like it then you can do one. She manages to look like sex but remain empowered as well as a ‘woman’s woman’. Maybe because she speaks to women in an inclusive and non-judgemental manner about aspirations we may feel are vain or conflicting.
There is no small print with Dolly, the way there is with many ‘strong’ female role models, take Cheryl Cole for example who always appears amid T&C’s such as- hair made fuller with extensions, eyelashes enhanced in post-production, somehow this seems sneaky, whereas Dolly’s fake-appreciation feels inclusive, like we aren’t feminine fails. Dolly exclaims: everybody always wants to know, “How long does it take to do your hair?” “How should I know? I’m never there.” This ability to laugh at herself is consistent. But she has a serious side too, her impressive Imagination Library, started 10 years ago in home town of Sevierville, Tennesse and now extends throughout the UK- ensuring children receive one free book a month until their fifth birthday.