Over the years, Dolly Parton has worn a lot of hats: country singer and songwriter, actress, theme park mogul and, yes, busty and bedazzled style icon. But on July 13, the 69-year-old legend got to be a fairy godmother when she broke the news to seven-year-old Alyvia Lind that the budding thespian had just landed the plum role of Little Dolly in the upcoming TV movie of Dolly’s life, Coat of Many Colors.
“When you were doing your audition, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, I wish I had been that pretty when I was little,'” she said to her elated mini-me. “I wish I had been that smart.” Of course, the truth is that Dolly was adorable and already quite gifted as a child — but she did have to overcome a difficult past to get to where she is today.
That’s exactly why Dolly has signed a movie deal with NBC: to share her inspiring journey with a new generation. “More and more, Dolly wants to see her legacy through,” an insider reveals to Closer. “Telling these stories is the perfect way to do that.” There certainly won’t be any shortage of material.
Dolly grew up as one of 12 children, poor but proud in the rural Appalachian town of Locust Ridge, Tenn. When she moved to Nashville, Tenn., after high school and scored her first hit song, “Joshua,” in 1971, she literally went from rags to riches — yet she’s never forgotten her humble beginnings. “Dolly believes that kids who watch this movie will see that her family was poor, but stuck together and helped one another,” says a source. “There were dark days.”
A portrait of Dolly taken in 1955. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
And how. Dolly and her siblings slept on straw beds in a house with no gas, electricity or running water. (Money was so tight that when the local doctor delivered the future megastar, he was paid with a bag of grain.) According to Dolly’s younger sister Stella, who wrote the memoir Tell It Sister, Tell It: Memories, Music and Miracles, the brood’s mother suffered from mental health issues — often leaving the kids to fend for themselves — while Daddy was equal parts “hardworking, hard drinking.” Says the insider, “It was an incredibly harsh way to grow up, but it gave Dolly her steely resolve.”
To read the full story on Dolly, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!