One of the biggest reasons people love Dolly Parton, who turns 67 on Saturday, is because she’s got such a frank and open personality. However, there’s one element of the iconic entertainer’s life that’s managed to fly under the radar for many fans. She has a very close family role to another famous entertainer—namely, 20-year-old Miley Cyrus!
Parton was bestowed the role of Miley's “honorary” godmother due to her close friendship with Miley’s dad Billy Ray Cyrus, who opened shows for her back in 1992 (the two notably collaborated on Parton’s single “Romeo” in 1993).
She didn't allow an official godparent ceremony when Miley was born, due to her busy schedule, but wanted to be involved nevertheless. “[I told Billy Ray], I don’t know if I’ll be around to where I can actually do all the duties that a godmother does,” Parton explained. “So let me be her fairy godmother.”
Although this relationship has gone unnoticed by many fans, Parton has spoken often of her love and admiration for Cyrus—and repeatedly defended her even through the young singer’s many headlines for various questionable behaviors (including daring haircuts, marijuana use, and an early engagement).
The topic has been raised numerous times in interviews, with unvarying response from the country legend: Leave Miley alone.
“If you think I’m going to sit here and pass judgement on Miley, you’re wrong,” Parton asserted to Access Hollywood in 2010, when asked what she thought about Cyrus’s very un-Disney fashion choices at the time. "She’s precious. I love her and I have nothing but wonderful things to wish for her and wonderful things to say about her.”
She furthered this sentiment with a bit of bite last year--"I love Miley to death and people are mean about her all the time,” Parton told In Touch. “She's just trying to grow up and find her spot. It grieves me when people talk bad about her. I wanna smack them! Knock it off and let the kid grow up."
"I remember myself at her age. We've all been a bit too hard on her," Parton analyzed to Parade in 2012. "I hope she holds it together because there's a world of things she can do. She should keep an eye on things and make wise decisions."
Parton has also gone on the record saying that she approves of Cyrus’s fiance Liam Hemsworth, whom she terms a “beautiful, nice boy.”
As for Cyrus herself, she seems to return her godmother’s respect. Despite an infamous incident in 2010 when she claimed that Parton’s (and her father’s) home genre of country music was “contrived on so many levels,” Cyrus took the stage with Parton on the 25th anniversary of theme park Dollywood to perform Parton’s classic “Jolene.”
Two years later, she honored Parton again with a stunning solo cover of the song, which she posted on her official website as part of a “backyard sessions” project for fans to enjoy.
Cyrus told Parade in 2010 that her “fairy godmother” is “the nicest person in the world”—who also happens to give sage advice . “She always tells me just to do what I love, and if I’m not having fun it’s not working."