It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world! Just ask the one and only Dolly Parton, cover woman for BUST‘s June/July Summer Music Issue. An idol for generations, this gal shows no sign of stopping, or even slowing down. And staying fresh? Please. Just listen to her cover of Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me.”
(Make sure you listen all the way to the end so you can hear her say, “Lord, I’m ready for America.”)
Her new album, Blue Smoke, comes out May 29, marking her most recent release in a career of literally hundreds. She’s the classic. She’s the originator. She was one of the first feminist icons to actively flaunt the disconnect between a female artist’s appearance and her inner personality. She’s Dolly.
She’s proven to us time and time again that it doesn’t matter what people say about you, it’s what you say about yourself. With that in mind, without further ado, I give you Ms. Parton in her very own words, along with a super-special excerpt from BUST‘s Summer Music Issue. To read the full interview, pick up our new issue on newsstands now, or subscribe.
“What better person to do BUST magazine than me?” It’s the first thing Dolly Parton says when she calls from her part-time home of Nashville, TN, before letting loose with a melodic laugh, as familiar as her Southern, honey-pie accent. It’s not surprising that the 68-year-old leads with a boob joke. Her larger-than-life chest on her petite five-foot frame garners as much attention from fans and the media as her platinum-selling singing voice and hit-making songwriting. And making boob jokes is kind of her thing. “I’ll just say something, you know, ‘Well, I’m glad to get that off my chest,’ right up front so then they can’t comment,” she says. “But of course, you don’t want people to just think that that’s all you are.”
Anyone with an inkling of Parton’s history knows she’s much more than her bra size (and no, her chest isn’t insured for half a million dollars as celebrity lore would have you believe). She’s a singer, a songwriter, a tireless performer, a musician, a movie star, an author, a philanthropist, and even an amusement park mogul (in 1986 she bought a Smoky Mountain–themed tourist attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN, and reopened it as Dollywood). She’s won eight Grammys and has been nominated for 46 of them (a female artist record tied only by Beyoncé). She’s recorded 42 studio albums and has had 26 number-one hits on the country music charts. She was even nominated for two Oscars for Best Original Song: one for “9 to 5,” the track she wrote for the eponymous, now-classic feminist flick she also starred in, and one for “Travelin’ Thru,” the theme from 2005’s Transamerica, which featured Felicity Huffman as a trans woman.
But somehow it always comes back to her looks. And her breasts. “I don’t mind. I’ve kind of exposed them. I had big boobs all my life, but I had ’em made even bigger, so why not just go along with the fun,” she says. “People hopefully now at least know there is a heart beneath the boobs and that’s one of the reasons my boobs are so big, it’s just all heart pushin’ out my chest,” she says, letting out another laugh. It’s this combination of “I do what I want” attitude, disarming graciousness, and an endlessly sunny disposition that make Parton one of the most loveable icons of country music. But after nearly six decades in the public eye, she’s become much more than that. Her body of work is so pro-woman, if BUSThad a hall of fame, she’d be a shoe-in. And she doesn’t have a legion of gay fans for nothing—Parton has always been supportive of the gay community, even while championing a deeply religious worldview. In a culture of manufactured pop singers, she’s a self-made superstar who rose to the top exactly the way she wanted to. And her status as such is a feat in and of itself.
You guessed it–there’s more. Much, much more. Will you be picking up a copy of Dolly’s cover issue?