Dolly Parton is famous for her voice, her silhouette, her one-liners, and her ability to craft a song so folksy and relatable, you feel like you, too, might lose your man to a woman with flaming locks of auburn hair. But did you know that she’s also super-shrewd with money? The Dolly Parton empire, worth about US$350 million, includes a theme park and numerous film and TV deals, not to mention royalties from penning one of the best-selling singles of all time.
The singer, who was raised in a one-bedroom cabin with 11 siblings, certainly knows a thing or two about making the most of what you have.
But if there’s one lesson we can learn from Dolly, it’s that you can use your money to do good in the world. She’s now becoming known as much for her great songs as her great deeds. “It seems like the more I give the more I get, and that is the way it is supposed to go in life,” Dolly says.
So get comfy and pour yourself a cup of ambition; we’ve compiled a few ways Dolly Parton has shown us how to do good with money.
She showed us you get back what you give
Here’s a gratifying way to get a taste of your own medicine. In the pandemic’s early days, Dolly donated $US1 million to the universities promising coronavirus research. The donation sped up Vanderbilt’s collaboration with Moderna, which credited the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund as a sponsor in its report on the vaccine’s success. Last March, when Dolly sat down for her COVID jab (sporting an awesome, vaccine-appropriate cold-shoulder top), she received a dose of the vaccine she’d helped fund. What goes around comes around, right?
She proved that education is powerful
Think of Dolly as the world’s most glamorous librarian (excuse us, while we add ‘glam librarian’ to our moodboard). Inspired by her dad, who couldn’t read, Dolly founded the Imagination Library in Tennessee in 1995, when she started mailing one free book per month to children under five. The program has since sent over 150 million books to families in five countries.
She championed other women
In case you didn’t know, we’re big on investing in women around here; it’s kind of our thing. Dolly digs it, too. “You’re in the same boat with a lot of your friends,” she wrote in 9 to 5, an ode to the 9to5 women’s labour movement and an enduring anthem against workplace discrimination. Plus, she rejected Elvis Presley’s request to cover I Will Always Love You, giving it to Whitney Houston instead – one of the greatest money moves in musical history.
She’s put her money back into her community
Even after decades in showbiz, a larger-than-life persona, and a ginormous collection of wigs, Dolly has stayed pretty down-to-earth, giving back oodles of money to Sevier County, Tennessee, the rural mountain community that raised her. We love that she provides regular scholarships to Tennessee students, and in 2016, she founded the My People Fund, which gave $1000 per month for six months to folks who’d lost their homes in wildfires.
She’s used her voice
Though usually tight-lipped about politics, Dolly has spoken out on issues that matter most to her fans, especially those in the queer community. The singer, who once secretly entered a Dolly look-alike drag contest (and lost!), has long backed marriage equality and denounced transphobic bathroom bills. She’s also thrown her support behind the Black Lives Matter movement, saying last year: “Of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!” You tell ‘em, Dolly.
One thing’s for sure: if you plan on using your money for good, Dolly Parton is an awesome role model.