Dolly Parton’s “Gaudy, Flamboyant, Fun” Beauty Evolution

The name Dolly Parton always conjures up a very specific mental picture — sky-high, bleach-blonde hair, plumped pink lips, and a helluva lot of sparkle — and that’s because the singer has been maintaining that look very intentionally throughout the past six decades or so. Even in the early stages of her music career in the 1960s, Parton was already “Dolly-izing” popular trends, which, as she explains to Allure, simply means making them “gaudy, flamboyant, fun, comfortable, and noticeable.” 

She’s well aware, by the way, of the criticism that her personal brand of beauty and fashion can draw from certain people — ones who don’t see value in the eye-grabbing quality of things like acrylic nails, false eyelashes, and beehive hairdos. She just brushes it off with a laugh because, to her, the “fake” stuff has just always been more appealing. “I’ve got little short, stubby hands, so of course I’m going to have long nails; I’m short, so I wear high heels, and my hair don’t do what I want it to, so I wear wigs,” she says. “I can still have it all, even if it’s fake.”

Alongside her songwriting genius, it’s that attitude — the combination of humility and ostentation — that has made Parton such an unwavering figure in everyone’s lives (even those who don’t actually listen to her music have experienced her impact in some way or another). As Parton matures, she has no desire to part ways with her more theatrical side, either. To celebrate the launch of her latest album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, Parton broke down her entire beauty and fashion evolution to us. In the video below, she’ll tell you all about how she came to adore longer-than-life nails, the magic of custom-made high heels, and how wigs “set her free.”

As Parton herself puts it, every single flouncy, glamourous, and garish decade of Dolly is still a part of who she is today. And who she is now might still be perceived as fake or phony to some, but to Parton, that’s OK. “I might be artificial, but I’m real where it counts — right here in my heart.”

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