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I remember seeing Dolly Parton for the first time in Hannah Montana. I remember the chorus of prerecorded audience cheers playing loudly as her character was introduced. I remember her eccentric personality, her quick-witted southern charm, and the way her singing voice perfectly meshed with Miley’s. At the time, I only recognized Dolly Parton in her iconic role as Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana’s godmother. As a seven-year-old, I was much more invested in Hannah Montana navigating the best of both worlds. But as the show progressed, so did I, and that is when I began to understand the legacy of Dolly Patron. 

[bf_image id="q7jwwz-2sb734-6g5inh"] Born on January 19, 1946, in a one-room cabin in Pittman Center Tennessee, Parton has described her upbringing as being “dirt poor.” Her father paid the doctor that delivered her with the only payment he could, a bag of cornmeal. At an early age, she began performing and establishing herself as a future star. At 6-years-old she was performing at church. By 10, she sang on The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour And at 13, Johnny Cash introduced her onstage for her first performance at the Grand Ole Opry.

In 1972, Parton wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” on the same day. In 1980 Paton wrote “9 to 5” and was inspired to make the rhythm by strumming her acrylic nails together to mimic a clacking typewriter. She is one of the most honored female country artists of all time. Having composed over 3,000 songs, earned 10 Grammy Awards and a total of 50 nominations, received Academy, Tony, and Emmy nominations, and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, there is no denying Dolly Parton’s stardom. 

[bf_image id="55s558wmg8c6x8h44q6cs96"] The legacy of Dolly Parton does not end at her musicality. The multihyphenate celebrity has become known as a committed philanthropist. 

In 1986, the Dollywood amusement park opened and was a way for Parton to give back to her community. Parton has expressed the importance of a theme park for children as she once thought of them as one of the greatest things in the world. In 1995, Parton created the Imagination Library, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting literacy, and distributes free books to children until the age of 5. After the 2016 wildfires in East Tennesse, Parton arranged a The Smoky Mountains Rise telethon and raised millions of dollars. To continue wildfire relief efforts, Parton has also created the My People Fund. Parton has also funded multiple scholarships and provided support to several organizations. 

[bf_image id="xr8zwfrkwgqc74jk5n93cq5"] Most recently, Dolly Parton has contributed immensely to the research for the Coronavirus vaccine. Last Year, Parton donated 1 million dollars to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which helped fund the Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. Last Tuesday Parton got a taste of her own medicine and received a dose of the Moderna vaccine. She documented the moment and encouraged everyone to get their own when they can. 

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Dolly Parton has lived an incredible life, but she is regarded as sort of an enigma, at least to the general public. As a woman in country music, Parton has been scrutinized for her hyper-femininity and garnered multiple questions about cosmetic surgery. Yet, there are rumors that her arms are secretly completely covered in tattoos, which haven’t been seen bare in public for decades. 

I think what has drawn people to Dolly Parton all these years is her unique ability to not care at all, but also care so much. She has always been herself, and whenever she is confronted with misogynistic questions, she shrugs them off and hits them back with witty humor. Yes, humor is a mechanism most women go for when they are in these situations. However, it always makes the one asking the question a little annoyed, so I think it’s worth something. Parton has also famously said that she patterned her look after “the town tramp.” Despite the stigmatization, Parton thought the look was beautiful and makes her feel the most comfortable. Parton has always seemed like such a gentle and warm person that is always helping someone. She cares for her community and others. She does not care what people think about her and does not care to make people like her. she cares about things that truly matter, which are bigger than her.

Dolly Parton has and continues to cement herself as an American icon that has achieved intergenerational celebrity status. I think we are all excited to see what's next for her. 

 

Lidia (She/Her) is a junior majoring in Digital Communications and Media. When she is not petting dogs on the sidewalk or re-watching Harry Potter, she is scribbling away on any surface she can find. Lidia is passionate about writing critical and culturally relevant content.
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