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Dolly Parton: Empowering People Once Again

Recent news from Dolly Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood, has made headlines for its enormous generosity towards its employees. Dollywood will be offering to cover the cost of tuition, fees and textbooks for its college-bound staff. Not only has this generosity already attracted new workers to Dollywood, but it’s also another step in a positive trend that businesses have been undertaking. Starbucks, Chipotle, Home Depot and other businesses have begun to offer scholarships to their collegiate employees. Parton’s scholarships, however, offer much more monetary assistance. With these scholarships, Parton is providing a way for some people to go to college who may not have been able to before. She is also helping to incentivize people to come back to the public workforce after an unusual period of unemployment due to COVID-19.

The Dollywood scholarships are not the only way that Parton has helped people during the pandemic. In April 2020, Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University to aid in its COVID-19 research, and her contribution directly funded the Moderna vaccine. In an interview with TODAY, Parton said, “I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand and try to help.” This philanthropy, though impressive on its own, doesn’t scratch the surface of the money that Parton has donated to various organizations, individuals, and her own private philanthropic endeavors.   

Through her inspiring personality, Parton provides more excellent examples of utilizing one’s platform to make a difference. For the duration of her public career, Parton has inspired people to feel comfortable in their bodies, which she does by showing that she’s confident with her own. Parton’s unique style and physique have always captured the public eye. With her big blond wigs, full makeup, tiny waist, and breast implants, Parton has a very distinct look. 

And she’s happy with this appearance. Though she’s been faced with judgement for her stylistic decisions, Parton has remained classy and confident in the face of criticism. In a notorious interview with Barbara Walters, Parton exemplified body positivity in a gracious yet powerful manner. Walters, during a string of undermining questions about Dolly’s appearance, asked why Parton chose to wear wigs and have implants if she was naturally pretty. Parton responded that it’s a choice she makes because she likes to stand out, and that she would “never stoop so low as to be fashionable, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do.” The potency of this statement is reinforced by Parton’s deeper reason for her choice of appearance. Her self-expressed “cartoon-character” presentation is about more than just the looks –it was a decision that likely affected her ability to catch attention from the public and advance in her career. Though this may seem superficial, it’s incredibly important. In her interview with Walters, Parton said that once people get over the “shock” of her looks, they can view her for who she is and see more clearly the value of her work. Parton’s style not only encourages people to be themselves, but it’s also an inspiring career maneuver. 

Added to her prolific songwriting, Parton’s icon-status is made even more captivating by her heart for others and the example of positivity she sets with her personal actions. Parton’s character, distinct for someone with such phenomenal celebrity-status, is inspiring for other women who have high career aspirations. Parton provides a shining example of having dreams, going after them, creating new goals after old ones are met, and having the ultimate goal of making a difference in one’s community. Dolly Parton, through her actions, words, and even her appearance, encourages people to be themselves, go after their dreams, and use their earnings to empower others. 

Sarah studies English at the University of Alabama and is from Hoover, AL. Her favorite things are writing poems, shopping, traveling, and spending time with her sister. She has about 20 plants in her dorm.