Why Dolly Parton Used to Think She Only Appealed to ‘Little Children and Women’

Everybody loves Dolly Parton. Men, women, children, and everybody in-between. But when the Queen of Country was just beginning her rise to superstardom, she felt she only appealed to a certain demographic. Here’s why Parton felt women and children flocked to her back in 1979.

Dolly Parton always felt different

When Parton was growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee, she had big dreams.

“As a tiny child, I dreamed of bein’ famous,” she told Family Circle in 1979, as recorded in the book, Dolly on Dolly. “Of bein’ loved by everybody in the whole world, of havin’ money and big houses and cars. I wanted to know what the world was like on the other side of the mountain.”

Well, check, check, and check.

Though Parton has accomplished her childhood dreams and more, she didn’t have the easiest time growing up.

“The whole time, I just knew I was different from most mountain people,” she told writer Gerri Hirshey. “They’re a quiet, bashful sort and that wasn’t my natural self at all. I was talkative—maybe you noticed—and a fun-lovin’ child, real forward. I was an early developer in a lotta ways. I mean I looked 20 at 13, liked to wear my clothes close fittin’ and all. But I never dated the high-school boys. I always felt older, strange and set apart. I guess I wanted more than I was supposed to.”

Who Dolly Parton thought her fans were in 1979

Parton’s childhood experience of feeling different is one of the reasons she’s so beloved by fans. She’s relatable in a way many other celebrities are not. Back in 1979, the “Jolene” singer felt she was appealing to a certain type of people more than she was others.

“I believe I have mainly little children and women as my fans,” she said. “I think the children love the fantasy way I look. And women don’t feel threatened by me. I’m too bizarre to be sexy. I mean, no woman in her right mind would want to look the way I do. Still, when they look at me it may touch something somewhere. They may think of somethin’ they might like to have tried, somethin’ different or unusual. Just an unexplored possibility they might have passed up.”

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was right on the nose with her theory

At the time of the feature, Hirshey also interviewed a fan, a red-haired woman who’d come to see Parton perform, about what drew her to the “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” singer.

“Dolly is everything I never dared to be,” she said. “Sure, she’s outrageous looking. But just once, didn’t you ever want to do something outlandish—without worrying what everyone will say? She’s got the gumption to do whatever she wants.”

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