Dolly Parton on how she handles criticism: ‘Turn it into something positive’

Country icon Dolly Parton is full of lessons.

The singer recently opened up about her life, her career and how she’s handled harsh criticism in her nearly six decades of being a public person.

“People wanted me to change, they thought I looked cheap,” Dolly said on the podcast Work Life with Adam Grant, adding that she patterned her look after the “town tramp” because she thought she looked so glamorous.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 18: Dolly Parton performs on stage at ACL Live during Blockchain Creative Labs’ Dollyverse event at SXSW on March 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/WireImage)
Dolly Parton onstage in March in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Gary Miller/WireImage)

"The main advice that people wanted to give me was to change my look and to go simpler with my hair and the way that I dress," she continued. "Not to look so cheap, nobody was ever going to take me seriously, they would say.”

The singer, who recently published a novel Run, Rose, Run, co-written with James Patterson, is no stranger to criticism, and says the best way to cope is by turning it into something positive.

“When I get bad reviews… I look at it like, well, they must have had some reason to write that,” she says. “There must be some truth in it, surely nobody would just be cruel enough, mean enough, to just say something [cruel]. I try to look at it deeply and think, well, you know, they probably got a point. And I’ll just try to look at that and try to change it, and make improvements for next time.”

“If you make a mistake it’s best that you pick it up and it turn into something positive,” she added. “Sometimes the best part of my show is when I mess up and people know I’m human. They see how you’re gonna get out of it, and you’re right there in the spotlight. You have to deal with it. Same with life, I don’t punish myself for [making mistakes].”

Of course, it took years for her to really understand that lesson and put into practice.

“I have this saying, and I’ve heard it before: It’s better to choose what you say than to say what you choose,” she said. “I had to hire so many people in my life and I had to fire some as well. And that’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I cry over it. I stress over it, knowing I’m going to have to deal with it.”

Parton's compassion also extends to Mother Nature. Earlier this month, she opened up about the best way humans can take care of the planet.

"Well, my hope for the environment, for all things living, and all things good, just nature in general, [is] that we should pay more attention to how we're treating our mountains, how we're treating our world, how we're just treating everything," she said in an interview with National Geographic Travel's Amy Alipio, published Wednesday, ahead of Earth Day on April 22.

"We're just mistreating Mother Nature," she added. "That's, like, being ugly to your mama, you know? That’s like being disrespectful, you know? Seriously. So, I really think we all need to pay closer attention to taking better care of the things that God gave us freely and that we’re so freely messing up. We need to rethink that and do better."

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