Dolly Parton to RuPaul: ‘This is my living self. I am a living drag queen’

Dolly Parton is a genius, icon, American hero and just a lovely person. But did you also know that she can out-savage RuPaul? Amazing. Dolly covers Marie Claire’s December/Holiday issue and the interview was conducted over Zoom by Ru. Dolly very easily out-drag-queens him. The entire piece is worth a read because Dolly is so amazing, and there’s tons of stuff I can’t even fit into this post, like Dolly speaking about the origins of the Imagination Library (her free books to kids) and her Netflix special and more. Some highlights:

RP: Do you have a spiritual practice?
Oh, yes. I’m a very spiritual person. Every single day, before I do anything, I wake up and I thank God for the night and ask him to bless the day and to bring all the right things…all the wrong people out of my life, and bring all the right stuff in. And just to guide me, lead me. And I always pray that he’ll let me uplift mankind and glorify Him.

RP: How early in the morning do you get up?
Well, that depends. I’m a very, very, very early riser. I go to bed pretty early, but I’m up and down. If I wake up and I’m pretty well awake, I think, I’ve got so much to do, I’ll get up and I’ll work a little while, write a little while, and I’ll lay back down. But I’m always, almost always up for good around 3 a.m. So I do some of my best spiritual work, some of my best writing, and some of my business work—call-ins and letters that I’m writing or whatever—between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. I get more work done during that little period of time when the world is calm, energies are down, and I just feel like a farmer. I think God is a farmer. He’s getting out and he’s throwing down all these little nuggets of corn. Corn mostly, in my place. They say the early bird gets the worm. Well, they also get a lot of good ideas too.

RP: Oh, I agree. It’s when the world is calm. I get up at 4 a.m. every morning. How many hours of sleep do you get?
I don’t require a lot of sleep. Three to five hours I can work on. Five hours I like to get. But usually I’m between three and five. But usually, if I’m on the job, I’ll take a little power nap.

RP: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Well, this morning I made breakfast for my husband and me. I made some sausage patties, and I baked some biscuits, and I made some milk gravy. He likes that once in a while. Now, I can’t eat like that all the time, but I enjoy eating it when I do.

RP: When you were cooking, were you wearing your high heels?
I always wear my high heels. Don’t you?

RP: No. That’s the thing: There are similarities in what we do, but I take all that stuff off.
Well, I don’t. I have to always stay ready—street ready, I always say. I have to keep my makeup on and keep my hair done. Like, when I’m in L.A.—I’ve told you about it—if it’s going to earthquake, if we get an earthquake, I’m not running out in the street looking like you look now. I have to be ambulance-ready at all times, if I get sick or something. But I actually do wear high heels most of the time. They’re not always as high as the ones I wear for show. But I’m little. I’m short. And I have to wear heels in order to reach my cabinets. But I always enjoy wearing the shoes too, and I just feel more like me. But I can come down, though. I’m comfortable in my own skin; I’m comfortable with my image. I dress for myself more than I do for somebody else.

RP: People always ask me about how many wigs I have, and I name each of them different names. But my oldest wigs…I have wigs that I still wear that are about 23 years old. Do you have wigs that are that old?
I do, but most of them are more museum-type pieces too. I don’t think I have any that I wear that are that old now, but I know what you mean. See, you’re a drag queen. Those are like costumes to you. This is my living self. I am a living drag queen. You dress up just now and then, but for me, though, I like the wigs and I wear them almost every day. So, people ask me how many wigs I have, I say, “Well, I must have at least 365,” because I wear one almost every day. But I actually keep my own hair the same color and I just kind of pull it up in little scrunchies around the house. But I still like to put on makeup and have my hair fluffed.

[From Marie Claire]

I laughed the entire way through these quotes, from “street ready” to “I’m not running out in the street looking like you look now” to “This is my living self. I am a living drag queen.” I love her so much. And she’s right! I mean, it’s sort of sad to me that Dolly doesn’t know the joy of sitting at home without a wig, without makeup, in comfortable slippers and some cozy pajamas. It’s sad that she’s always “street ready.” But I also think it’s sort of generational? Women her age were raised that way, especially in the South. You always have “your face on,” you always have a wig handy and you always have your heels.

Also: Dolly only needs 3 or 5 hours of sleep?? Damn. I feel like crap if I get less than six hours. But Dolly and Ru are right about how the best work gets done early in the morning. I’m just super-clear-headed at, like, 4 am and 5 am. It’s very easy to get work done before the rest of the world is awake.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of Marie Claire.

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