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The Church of Dolly


Last week I saw Dolly Parton in concert. Dolly is now 70, but like Jane Fonda, she seems to be aging in reverse. She’s a petite powerhouse, jacked up on four-inch heels with a wig to rival Marie Antoinette’s.

Her concert interweaves her songs and her hilarious storytelling. She introduced her classic song, Jolene, by talking about the girl at the bank who liked to flirt with her husband, Carl Dean, 50 years ago. She quipped that she wanted to look her up to invite her to their recent vow renewal since she’s sung about her so much over the years.

She had us all in the palm of her hand.

I think what makes Dolly so special are these four things:

She works like a dog. Dolly has just released her 43rd album and writes a new song every day. Dolly seems to play almost every instrument and continues to learn new ones. For this tour, she learned to play the saxophone and regaled us all with a song played Benny Hill-style while running around the stage backward in heels.

She rises above self-pity. Anyone who knows anything about growing up poor in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee knows Dolly’s had her share of hardship. She talked about not always having enough food but having a lot of love. She knows that it’s far more helpful to put on a wig, throw on some rhinestones, and slap on a smile than to wallow in misery. And if something bad happens, she’ll deal with it. As she says, “If I wind up sitting in a wheelchair, at least I’ll have my high heels on.

She practices gratitude. Throughout the evening she talked about all the things she’s grateful for: having loving parents, having music in her life, being surrounded by the beautiful mountains. And now that she has so much, she revels in it. She loves her wigs and her jewels and all the trappings of success. I get the sense she never takes anything for granted.

She never apologizes for who she is. Dolly admittedly dresses like a drag queen and spent the evening in a silver sparkly dress and mile-high hair. As she says, “I look just like the girls next door… if you happen to live next door to an amusement park.” She does not apologize for her look. “It costs a lost of money to look this cheap,” she boasts.

At the end of the day, Dolly Parton knows and likes who she is, which gives her permission to know and like who everybody else is too. She is one of the most inclusive performers on the road today.

Dolly Parton runs her concerts like a church service, alternating between hymns and mini-sermons, and she both inspires and uplifts. Her interpretation of the spiritual, I’ll Fly Away, was equal parts joyful and soulful, and if there was a Church of Dolly, I’d be attending every Sunday.

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With an MBA in Finance, JEN LAWRENCE worked in investment banking; was Executive Director of a Children’s Museum and is a pioneer mommy blogger. Jen writes and speaks about women in business, critical thinking, strategic planning and is the author of Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team. When your world’s been blown apart, Jen Lawrence can help you pull yourself together, and pinpoint those next steps that will help you find your new normal. She can also be found at

16 thoughts on “The Church of Dolly”

  1. I love Dolly Parton for all of the reasons you mentioned and more. Did you know she wore the high platform “hooker shoes” 30 years ago? Her sister makes her shoes or at least did for a longtime. She covered them in the same fabric as Dolly’s dress. She’s proof that if you love what you do, you’ll be successful. Envious you got to see her perform. xoxox, Brenda

    • I’ve loved her since I saw 9 to 5 when I was young so seeing her live was a treat. She is a wonderful mix of so many things I appreciate. I love the story about her shoes. Family and glamour: her two favourite things! xoxo

  2. I’m so envious, Jen! I love Dolly Parton and have missed out on tickets to her concerts the last couple of times she performed in London, she’s just so popular! And just like Brenda, I love her for all the reasons you mentioned too. I imagine she’d be so much fun and love that she shows no sign of slowing down. Esther xx

    • I snapped up two tickets and took my 12 year old daughter. It was a very special night. Hopefully you can get tickets when she next comes through town. xo

  3. what a grand time you must have had watching that grand dame! i’ve always loved her music, but her attitude? she just knows how to live life.
    xoxo beth

  4. I love Dolly’s zest for life! No matter what, she always finds something to laugh about. What a role model she is for how authenticity, gratitude and generosity can change the world!

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