Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton Wants to Know If You've Learned the Lesson Yet

The icon opens up about the '70s looks she says never went out of style, her new HSN fragrance, and why kindness is non-negotiable.

The rumors you've heard about Dolly Parton are true.

Yes, she's sold over 100 million records worldwide. Yes, her career has spanned over half-a-century. Yes, she has an amusement park named Dollywood in her home state of Tennessee. And yes, she was the blueprint for "I Will Always Love You." But when you're speaking with Parton one-on-one, if you weren't already aware of her many, many accolades, chances are, you'd never guess.

Talking to Parton — even if it's the first time — is like chatting with someone you already know. She's kind, very, very funny, warm, and doesn't hold back in terms of honesty. When she speaks of her colorful career, there isn't a hint of hubris. It's like she's talking about any old thing. Parton may love to get dolled up and wear all the glitter and jewels, but behind the mega-watt shine, she's someone who uses her power and influence to be of service to others and an example of kindness and humility.

"Hi Kayla, it's Dolly! How are you?" is how she enthusiastically greets me over the phone before I even said anything to her at all. And seeing as we're both #ModernaMamis (thanks in part to Parton's generous financial contributions), I decided to take a second before the interview just to say thank you.

"Oh well, I'm glad to be of help," she responds. "It's still raging out there, but glad to have been part of something."

Parton has been a part of plenty, from topping the musical charts to her many philanthropic efforts. But one thing she hasn't done, believe it or not, is launch a fragrance — until now.

In partnership with Scent Beauty and HSN, Parton's first perfume, appropriately named Dolly, is finally here. With top notes of mandarin, crisp pear, and peony; middle notes of jasmine and vanilla orchid; and base notes of musk and patchouli, it quite literally smells like heaven, which is exactly what Parton was going for.

"I've wanted to do a fragrance for years and years because I love perfume, I love beautiful scents, and I've always been complimented on how I smell," Parton tells me. "People have always been saying, 'What are you wearing?' and I guess we call it Dolly because it's just been a combination of things that I've loved."

dolly parton perfume

To shop: $61;

Fragrance aside, I spoke with Ms. Parton about a whole lot more, including her impressive wig collection, why she likes to do her own makeup, the '70s styles she never let go of, and why she thinks God is trying to "slap us [all] upside the head."

The notes in this perfume are divine. I'd love to know more about how you crafted the scent and where you hope the fragrance story takes consumers.

I never did like real loud perfume. I like it lasting, but I like it to smell soft, and I've always been drawn to a musk kind of flavor. So I just chose from the different flavors that I had and the different perfumes, and powders, and bath oils that I've loved throughout the years and took it to the fragrance people to see if we could come up with my combination and we did! But we've been working on this for over two years — I really feel like we nailed it. I hope everybody feels as blessed as I do when they wear it.

The bottle itself is also gorgeous. I love the crystal butterfly on the top, which I know was important for you to incorporate.

The butterfly has been my symbol. I used to chase them, get lost in the woods back in the country when I was a little girl. I wasn't afraid of them because they wouldn't sting or bite and they were colorful and gentle. I just kind of related to them. I wrote one of biggest hits in my early career, called "Love Is Like a Butterfly," so it just seemed natural. It made a beautiful package, I thought.

Dolly Parton

I will always have big hair and bell bottoms. They never did go out of style with me ... I've got clothes that I've been wearing for 40 years.

— Dolly Parton

Wigs are also very important to you. I read somewhere that you think you own over 300.

[Laughs] Oh well we change them out lots of times, but I was joking and saying that I must have at least 365, because I wear one almost every day. So I don't know how many I have, but I have all I need and I just live in those wigs because it's just so handy. It's hard to keep my own hair the way I like it with all that teasing and bleaching and all that. I did that for years, but it was just so much better when I started wearing wigs and Cheryl Riddle, my hairdresser, she just does great with all this. She's been with me a long time.

Dolly Parton
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Is there one wig that's your favorite or holds a special memory for you?

It would be the iconic look — the one that's on the ad for the perfume. It's probably from the '70s or early '80s. That's the wig that I kind of lean towards and often still style my hair like that, no matter how many looks we have.

So let's go back to the '80s, or early '90s rather, you once joked — or maybe not — that when Whitney Houston covered "I Will Always Loved You" for The Bodyguard, you bought a bunch of wigs with the money from publishing.

Ha! So I think that was a joke — that the money I made from that I bought a lot of cheap wigs or something like that. I said, "It costs a lot to look this cheap!" I'm sure I didn't buy any extra wigs at that time, more than I normally do. That was just kind of my little Dollyism at the time. I mean, it was a lot of money so I probably spent it on hair and makeup.

Speaking of makeup, I love that although you work with a lot of talented makeup artists, you've always finished off your look yourself. Why has it been important for you to define beauty on your own terms?

I know what I want to look like, and I think everybody has our little things that we don't like about ourselves. Maybe your mouth is crooked on one side, so you have to make sure you make it up right on the other side, or whatever. You know how to enhance that with the makeup, to cover those little things. I have a certain look I like for myself that I'm comfortable with and when other people — when they don't know you or don't really know what you're doing, they do great makeup, but sometimes I don't look like myself. So I have to go back and Dolly-ize everything [laughs].

Dolly Parton
Getty Images

We're seeing a lot of '70s trends come back into style. What's one look you loved back then that you'd bring to 2021?

It would be big hair and bell bottoms! [Laughs]

I love that — and agree.

I will always have big hair and bell bottoms. They never did go out of style with me, because I'm not one of those people who thinks I have to follow trends. I just wear what feels comfortable for me. I've got clothes that I've been wearing for 40 years. Certain pieces, certain jeans, shirts, blouses. But I've always loved bell bottoms and everybody used to laugh at me, and I said, "Oh trust me, it will come back." And sure enough, it has.

I mean, I just bought two pairs.

Oh! Good for you. I have some on today.

Dolly Parton

I really feel like — and I'm a very spiritual person — God is trying to slap us upside the head and make us pay attention.

— Dolly Parton

I love them! So, if you could gift a bottle of your perfume to someone, whether they're alive or have passed on, who would it be?

Well, that's a good question. I never thought of that. Maybe Liz Taylor to see if she likes it as much as I liked White Diamond.

Last question: What's been the biggest takeaway for you from 2020 until now.

I really feel like — and I'm a very spiritual person — God istrying to slap us upside the head and make us pay attention. To be better people, to do better and to act better, and take better care of ourselves and other people. Whether it be our health issues or just sharing, loving, and caring. But really a lot of people have been held up to the light throughout all of this. I think all of us have been, and it should have been a learning experience. Hopefully, in time it will prove to be that. I just hope we don't have to get hit upside the other side of the head before we start to pay attention.

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