An Ode To Dolly Parton

As a child born and raised in the Tennessee foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, there was no way to avoid learning a little bit about our hometown hero of sorts—the one and only Dolly Parton.

When I was eight years old, I checked a book out from the school library on Dolly and read it within the day. I made her the subject of many school biography projects. I took countless trips to Dollywood with friends and family. I’ve seen all of her movies and let her music permeate my dorm room in college on quiet Sunday afternoons. And though I’m not one of the lucky Tennesseans who’ve had the good fortune to run in to her when she’s out and about in town, I’m still holding out hope that it’s going to happen one day. (Call me, Dolly!)

With all this talk of her growing up, it’s no wonder I became a devoted fan. I’ve learned a lot of great things from Dolly Parton over the years. As a woman who just wants to make a mark in this world, do some good, and have a little fun along the way, I think there’s no better example than the tiny lady with the big… heart!

Here are just five of the many things I think all of us ladies can learn from Dolly Parton. 

 1) Don’t apologize for who you are. 

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.” 

As women, there sometimes feels like no bigger struggle than the one against offering an unnecessary apology. It almost feels like a reflex at times. And while there’s nothing wrong with a well deserved, “I’m sorry,” there’s no reason to apologize simply for who we are and what we want in life. One of my favorite things about Dolly is that she is who she is, and she makes no apologies about it. She’s an amalgamation of so many things, and she fully goes after each one without a care, concern, or apology for what anyone else thinks.

2) Remember your people. 

“I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.”

Dolly has such a presence in my hometown and the surrounding area not just because she was born and raised there, but because she’s continued to make herself available to the community. As well-known as she’s become, she’s never lost sight of the people who supported her along the way. The best example? When wildfires recently ravaged her beloved community, she organized a fundraiser to support the people there, raising more than $9 million total to help people get back on their feet. Even though she doesn’t have to, she chooses to remember and love the people around her well.

3) There are few things a good hair day and a little lipstick can’t fix.

“Its hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” 

You know that old saying, “When you look good, you feel good?” Well, thanks to Dolly, I believe that’s true. We’ve all had those down in the dumps days where it feels like we’re never going to be able to get it together. When that happens, I’ve learned from Dolly to slap on a little lipstick, run a comb through my hair, and get back out there with confidence. It won’t solve all your problems, but it will help you feel a little better along the way. Take a tip from Dolly. If you start seeing and treating yourself like a diamond—even on the roughest of days—you’ll start feeling like one, too!

 4) Humility and ambition can coexist. 

“Above everything else I've done, I've always said I've had more guts than I've got talent.”

 As girls, we’re constantly in a struggle between being too much and too little. We want to run forward with ambition, but without coming on too strong. We want to approach our achievements with humility, but not make ourselves feel small. It’s a fight between embracing all of who we really are without offending who culture says we should be. Dolly throws that out the window and tells us to run boldly toward what we want. She’s grown an empire of business, written a catalogue of songs, launched fashion lines, and sold out arenas. That’s ambition! But she’s done it all with an air of humility and gratitude. Her example shows us that it’s okay to run forward with both ambition and humility; in fact, they make the perfect combination.

5) Try it all. 

“You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try.”

Have a dream? Something you want to chase after? Something you want to try? I know I have a list of many! And what I’ve learned from Dolly is that I’ll never know how it turns out unless I get off my butt and give it a try. She’s made movies, written music, opened businesses, sold products, and so much more! Some have been wildly successful. Others haven’t. But the point isn’t whether they worked out or not. The point is that she tried. And for all of us with aspirations or dreams, that’s a lesson we’d do well to model. If we aren’t brave enough to try, we’ll never really know what could happen. 



Sara Shelton