Watch Dolly Parton expertly handle Barbara Walters’ tacky questions in a 1977 interview
Barbara Walters is a now-retired broadcast journalist who gained international fame for her candid interviews with well-known figures. Though she was renowned for her interview techniques and willingness to ask tough questions, sometimes her questions could be somewhat tactless.
Put those two together 44 years ago and you get a shining example of Parton’s grace and wit in the face of tasteless questions about her looks, her breasts and criticisms lobbed at her. Parton has always been who she is and portrayed the outward appearances she wants to portray, and she calmly and deftly navigates Walters’ patronizing line of questioning with impressive poise.
So much of Barbara Walters’ commentary and questioning comes across as condescending and judgmental, but Dolly Parton transforms that negativity into a positive portrayal of who she is, where she’s from and what she’s all about.
When Walters told her she was beautiful and didn’t need the wig and the make-up and the outrageous clothes, Parton told her it was a choice she’s making. “I don’t like to be like everybody else,” she said. “I would never stoop so low to be fashionable, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do.
“I’m very real as far as my outlook on life and the way I care about people and the way I care about myself and the things I care about. I just chose to do this, and show business is a money-making joke and I’ve just always liked telling jokes,” she added.
Walters asked her if she ever feels that she is a joke, since people make fun of her.
“Oh I know they make fun of me, but all these years the people have thought the joke was on me, but it’s actually on them,” said Parton. “I am sure of myself as a person. I am sure of my talent. I’m sure of my love for life and that sort of thing. I am very content, I like the kind of person that I am. So, I can afford to piddle around and do-diddle around with makeup and clothes and stuff because I am secure with myself.”
The questions about Parton’s breasts were particularly tacky, especially by today’s standards. But Parton handled it all beautifully. Her responses are a masterclass in grace and her self-assurance is a refreshing model for us all—especially now that we can see how she has stayed true to herself all these years. Anyone who has ever wondered why Dolly Parton’s appearance is what it is will learn a lot from this interview, and anyone who wants to learn how to maintain dignity and class in the face of inconsideration will learn a lot as well.
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