The Parton Paradox, How Can One Be so Beloved Yet Remain Such an Enigma

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An incredible New York Times feature on Dolly Parton is the best celebrity “cover story” in years.

According to the Times, “Parton’s popularity has endured, in large part, because even after five decades of stardom she remains an enigma in plain sight. Call it the Parton Paradox: Hers has been one of the most scrutinized female bodies in the history of modern celebrity, and yet no one can tell you for certain what her forearms look like [or if they’re covered in tattoos as rumors suggest].

RELATED: Dolly Parton Did a Surprise Duet With Brandi Carlile of ‘I Will Always Love You’ to Spread LGBT Love: WATCH

“Very often someone will wow you, but as you get to know them, the mystery wears off,” Jane Fonda, Parton’s co-star in the feminist film 9 to 5, told Rolling Stone in 1980. “One of the things that just flabbergasts me about Dolly is the amount of mystery she has.”


And at the moment, the magical mysteries of Dolly Parton seem to be captivating a whole new generation. The 73-year-old is riding high on a trifecta of millennial milestones: She’s the subject of a popular serialized podcast (WNYC’s Dolly Parton’s America,hosted by Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad), the inspiration for a forthcoming Netflix anthology series (Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings premiering Nov. 22), and the featured vocalist on an EDM song (the Swedish duo Galantis’s “Faith,” on which Parton appears alongside a Dutch rapper named Mr. Probz). And, as her nearly 5 million Twitter followers will tell you, she knows her way around a “Jolene” meme.

Like Cher, another 73-year-old multihyphenate icon, Parton has over the past few years ascended to a rarefied level of intergenerational celebrity: a saucy grandmother of social media. When the Gen-Z sheriff and “Old Town Road” mastermind Lil Nas X wondered aloud, on Twitter, “y’all think i can get dolly parton and megan thee stallion on an old town road remix?,” Parton (or at least someone on her team) was quick to respond with a very appropriate unicorn emoji. “I was so happy for him,” Parton saidrecently of Lil Nas X. “I don’t care how we present country music or keep it alive,” she added. “I’m all about acceptance.”


Read the full story here.

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