Why Dolly Parton is our Style and Social Justice QUEEN

By Stephanie Watson

If I were to ask you to say the first Country singer that pops into your head, who would it be? Even if you’re not too familiar with the genre, you probably thought of Dolly Parton. She’s been a pop culture icon for decades now, and we’re sure you’ve heard Jolene at least ten times in your lifetime.

Dolly has pretty much never been out of the limelight, but recently she’s been sharing her thoughts on timely progressive issues such as race, sexuality, and the American election. The 74-year-old musician, actress, author, and Philanthropist is still our style and social justice icon to this day.

Here’s why...

Dolly Parton with microphone and Pro BLM quote

Country music is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to social justice. There’s a long line of progressive Country songs that discusses classism and misogyny, however there’s also a lot of gross right wing politics sprinkled here and there. Songs that glorify the confederacy and slavery are still being sung throughout America. Dolly thankfully has decided to reject racist traditions and support the Black Lives Matter movement instead.

"When they said 'Dixie' is an offensive word, I thought, 'Well, I don't wanna offend anybody. This is a business. We'll just call it The Stampede,'" she stated, when asked about removing the word Dixie from her branding. "And you just do stuff not realizing, but as soon as you realize that it is a problem, you should fix it. Don't be a dumbass. That’s where my heart is. I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose."

Dolly Parton in light blue gown with Embraces Tackiness quote

We may like a certain kind of edgy luxe here at DYLANLEX, but if there’s one thing we can appreciate nearly as much, it’s a fearless look. Dolly goes big, and never goes home. To be so passionate about a style that society deems “tacky” and “slutty” takes a lot of self-respect. In fact, the origins of her larger than life style came from someone who was vilified for her looks, just like Dolly has been throughout the years.

“I kind of patterned my look after the town tramp.” Dolly told CBS This Morning back in 2016. “I didn't know what she was, just this woman who was blond and piled her hair up, wore high heels and tight skirts, and, boy, she was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen. Momma used to say, "Aw, she's just trash," and I thought, That's what I want to be when I grow up. 'Trash.'" Yeah sure, Dolly’s language here could be a bit more feminist, but to be fair she’s just quoting how society sees women when they take control of their own bodies.

Dolly Parton in red gown with Big and Bold Jewelry quote

Speaking of going big or going home, just like us, Dolly has a love for sparkling statement jewelry. When it comes to bling, Dolly is a big fan of layering chunky bracelets, as well as fun pendants shaped like butterflies and flowers. If you can’t see if from the other side of the street, then is it really worth wearing? She even has her own lifestyle brand that includes pearl drop earrings, and you guessed it, butterfly pendants. If you're looking for more jewelry that makes a statement, check out our Hadley ii for a burst of bling. Tommy is your go-to earring for turning heads too. We’ve got everything from chokers to sunglasses that Dolly would be proud of.

Dolly Parton with drag queen and Queer Ally quote

Dolly has been an advocate for LGBTQIAP+ rights for as long as she’s had queer fans. From being against the transphobic bathroom ban, to uplifting gay fans, she’s cemented herself as one of the more progressive country singers, particularly during the 90s. Her song Family for example was pretty progressive for the time: "Some are preachers / some are gay / some are addicts, drunks and strays / But not a one is turned away when it's family."

And considering how many of Dolly’s fans were (and still are) religious, this was a surprise for many people to hear. She spoke about the hypocrisy of homophobic Christians in a 2014 interview with Billboard, saying: "If people want to pass judgment, they're already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody."

Dolly Parton in purple top 1970s with Hair Goals quote

You can see a pattern here; big jewelry, big voice, big hair, big everything. Hairstyles go in and out of fashion pretty quickly, but the one thing most of us want from a good head of hair is volume. And just like her attitude towards jewelry and clothes, the bigger the better. Dolly’s style, particularly her hair, had a huge impact on the evolution of drag culture. From the aesthetic of Dumplin’ to Kill Jolene: A Karaoke Play, her style and attitude made a growing impact.

Drag Queen Trixie Mattel, who arguably has the largest hair we’ve ever seen, states Dolly as their inspiration: “I love Dolly Parton, who to me represents the marriage and the intersection between storytelling and music,” Mattel told the press. “She makes people laugh as much as she makes people sing along, and that's obviously the direction I like to go in. She's an icon.”

And what’s more, Dolly herself entered a drag contest in which contestants dressed up as the singer. You’d think she’d be a shoo-in for the winner, but alas, she lost. Maybe it was a small hair day that evening.

Which is your favorite quote or lyric from the queen of Country? Drop some wise words in the comments!

About the author:

Stephanie Watson is a freelance journalist and copywriter from the UK, who specializes in psychology, sociology, and the beauty industry. She's a budding novelist on the side, and hopes to one day make it her full time career.