Born one of 12 children to a backwoods Tennessee family, savvy Dolly Parton has risen from relative poverty to become one of the most famous and wealthy country music stars in the world. Easily recognizable for her flamboyant platinum blonde wigs, vivid makeup, petite physique, and extra-large breasts -- which figure prominently in her humorous on-stage remarks -- Parton has shown a real knack for marketing herself in creative, lucrative ways that belie the downhome mannerisms and apple pie sweetness of her public persona. Parton's ventures range from a songwriting career,a semi-successful crossover to pop music, a sporadic acting career, a 100-million-dollar company, Dolly Parton Enterprises, and her ultimate self-promotion, the Dollywood musical theme park in Tennessee, which has become so popular since it's opening in 1986 that in 1997, it was largely responsible for the closing of its only rival, Opryland.
Parton's singing career began with television appearances in Knoxville at age 12. The following year she had a recording contract and was appearing at the Grand Ole Opry and at age 21, she had her first hit song, "Dumb Blonde" (1967). It was, however, Porter Wagoner who made her a star when he hired her to duet with him. Together, they toured the country, made records, and appeared numerous times at the Opry. She went solo in 1974 and soon had a string of hits, including the semi-autobiographical "Coat of Many Colors." During the '70s, Parton was a favorite on talk shows and music specials. In 1980, she made her acting debut opposite Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman in the hit revenge comedy 9 to 5. As in most of her subsequent acting endeavors, Parton essentially played herself. She wrote and performed the film's title song and earned an Oscar nomination. She has since continued composing and singing in her films. Parton offered one of her best acting performances as a big-hearted beautician in Steel Magnolias (1989). ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi