Country superstar Dolly Parton is famous for her sweetness. So it may surprise people to learn that in high school, she was a bit of a bad girl.
Parton talked to Andy Warhol and Maura Moynihan for Interview magazine back in July of 1984. Over the course of a wide-ranging discussion, she delved into her teen years and what she did to rebel. Parton said that not only did she get in trouble for bleaching her own hair, she also went around teasing everybody else’s hair when that style came into vogue.
“When I was a freshman in high school hair teasing came out, I’d already bleached my hair and got in big trouble,” Parton recalled. “I have blonde hair, but it just wasn’t radiant, it’s sandy blonde. It wasn’t yellow and white and bright. When teasing came out I just thought I had died and gone to heaven. Being creative with my hands, I started teasing. I fixed everybody’s hair.”
She added, “I had the biggest hair in school. I had lots of teachers that had a hard time dealing with me because I felt sexy.”
And while later in life she began to rely on wigs as a quick and easy shortcut, Parton’s signature bleached blonde hairstyle has become a part of her persona. In fact, today fans can’t imagine her without it.
Dolly Parton Struggled With Her Religious Beliefs
The interview got deeply personal, exploring topics such as Parton’s family history and religious beliefs. Even back in the 1980s, Parton said she prayed “all the time.”
“As a child I was scared to death of hellfire and brimstone, but I loved to sing,” Parton explained. “Out of that I started to remember the things that really stuck in my mind, and I think that’s followed me through the years, things like ‘Through God, all things are possible.’ I just remember the positive.”
But for a while there, Dolly Parton wrestled with the negative implications of the religion she’d been taught. The fire, the brimstone. She also struggled with her own sins and shortcomings. Eventually, she reached an understanding of grace that felt consonant to her.
“I just thought, ‘I can’t deal with this s–t. There cannot be a God that is that mean and cruel, and if there is then I’m too afraid to deal with Him anyway,’” Parton said. “So I had to decide who I was, and what God meant to me. I feel that sin and evil are the negative part of you, and I think it’s like a battery. You’ve got to have the negative and the positive in order to be a complete person. I used to punish myself a lot for things I felt, and then I’d just say, ‘Well, if it’s wrong for me to feel this why do I feel it?’”
Parton Wrestled With Sin
As if that weren’t enough, Parton added, “I used to have a lot of problems with all the stuff I felt. One of the songs on the jukebox in ‘Rhinestone’ has the line, ‘Torn between two lovers,’ and I’m thinking how I could have written that song.”
“See, to me it’s how you deal with it yourself,” she explained.
Still, it may be her ability to focus on the positive that makes Parton such a relentlessly cheerful person. And as she said herself, teased hair and all, “I’m still innocent and sweet in a wonderful way.”