Why this British photographer has expended a 10 years dressing like Dolly Parton

Why this British photographer has expended a 10 years dressing like Dolly Parton


Alice Hawkins has hardly ever photographed her idol, Dolly Parton, but she has photographed many Dollys.

Just one Dolly is on horseback, purple heels in stirrups and blonde curls piled higher on her head. In an additional image, two Dollys website link their arms all over each individual other’s waists, fingers fanning out with very long acrylic nails. Somewhere else, an additional Dolly — Hawkins herself — dons a crisp white skirt suit to pose outside the house of the small chapel in Dollywood, the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee-amusement park owned by the Queen of Nashville herself.

Hawkins is a British photographer, born far more than 4,300 miles from Memphis, in which Parton broke into the music industry. But she’s used the earlier 10 years-as well as dressing up as the singer, making numerous series about her individual feeling of self — and that of other Dolly superfans — through the glittering facet of Parton’s picture.

Hawkins’ collaborators have become her friends — all are Parton superfans, and some are impersonators.
Hawkins has photographed “Dear Dolly” in both the UK and the US.

Emulating Parton’s flamboyant fashion has supplied Hawkins “a ton of self-belief,” she claimed in a telephone simply call with CNN, teaching her to “embrace” her femininity and sexuality in a way she hadn’t constantly felt comfy with.

Hawkins has extended cherished the extravagance of Parton’s Americana, and was previously a lover of her audio when she initial noticed the state star complete in 2002 at a smaller location in London. But there, she found herself “spellbound,” she stated. “I remaining realizing that I’d identified my idol.”

Hawkins says she’s had to deal with assumptions about her intelligence and her ability since she was a teenager, in part because of her blonde hair.

“I’m a place lady myself, from Suffolk,” Hawkins claimed of the kinship she feels with Parton, despite their geographical and generational distance. “I grew up in a village, didn’t have considerably cash. And I moved to London, my possess ‘cup of ambition,’” she discussed, quoting the lyric from Parton’s basic 1980 tune “9 to 5.” These days, she lives just outside the house of the metropolis, increasing her kids even though operating as a photographer.

Earlier this year, she produced “Dear Dolly,” a book that offers quite a few Parton-inspired photograph projects, from luxurious, staged portraits of Dolly impersonators to stripped-down nude self-portraits of Hawkins’ individual pregnancy, in which she channels the singer by voluminous hair.

Through Hawkins’ lens, becoming unapologetically feminine can be an act of defiance towards gendered stereotypes.

In the intro of “Dear Dolly,” Hawkins writes on some of the moments that have undercut her self-well worth: a relative describing her “like a tart in season,” when she dressed for a night out as a teenager a headmaster questioning her intelligence in advance of an important exam. “(There’s) loads of negative judgments and assumptions, on your intelligence on your skill,” she informed CNN. Women like Pamela Anderson and Anna Nicole Smith, whom she also idolized in her younger many years, “stuck two fingers up” with their platinum hair and ease and comfort with their sexuality, she wrote.

In “Dear Dolly,” the touchstones of Parton’s style and career, from her guitar to her signature hair, form a visual lexicon.
Stepping into Parton’s shoes has given Hawkins more “self-belief,” she says.

In the blush-hued, bedazzled world of “Dear Dolly,” Hawkins and the other Dollys — Kelly O’Brien, Trixie Malicious and Claire Moore — radiate a feeling of pleasure, liberty and self-assuredness. It’s equally a appreciate letter to the state celebrity and the sisterhoods shaped in her name. For Hawkins, the get the job done has also been an outlet she could switch to in hard situations.

Hawkins first traveled to Dollywood following the funeral of a close friend in the US, and she felt a particular emotional connection to the chapel on the park grounds.

“I’ve built the work when I felt pretty determined or entire of grief, or terrified about my potential and my id,” she mentioned.

Hawkins to start with frequented Dollywood in 2010 at the recommendation of her husband even though traveling to the US, pursuing the unanticipated demise and funeral of her closest mate. She was deeply frustrated, she explained, but found solace in her knowledge at the park, located in close proximity to the modest cabin exactly where Parton was lifted in the foothills of the Terrific Smoky Mountains. “It was healing,” Hawkins recalled.

The adhering to yr, immediately after just one of her editors at the early 2010s British manner journal Ponystep unsuccessfully pitched a shoot with Parton, Hawkins as an alternative advised an editorial exactly where she could “walk in her footsteps” in Dollywood, prompting the first challenge where she commenced to gown like the state star.

But Hawkins does not consider herself an impersonator, and she doesn’t “go thoroughly Dolly” on a working day-to-day basis, she reported. “It’s not truly me, it’s my do the job. At times I have acrylic nails, but I’m not that hyper-glamorous. That’s just my fantasy.”

Hawkins doesn't dress as Parton day to day, but says it's more of a “fantasy” she's adopted for the project.
On a trip to Nashville, Hawkins stepped onstage to sing “In My Coat of Many Colors” by Parton.

1 of her collaborators, O’Brien, in the meantime, is a Parton impersonator — and a convincing a single, at that.

“I’ll in no way fail to remember that we were being in her pub in her very little village in the English countryside. She was Dolly down to a tee, sitting at the bar, possessing a consume even though I was capturing,” Hawkins recalled. “And this shopper came in, and he was absolutely persuaded she was Dolly Parton. We just could not burst his bubble.”

“She stayed in character, and she was like, ‘Well, thank you, honey,’” she ongoing. “I hope no person told him otherwise.”

Kelly O'Brien, pictured here, is a Parton impersonator often mistaken for the country star.

Photographing “Dear Dolly” has improved Hawkins existence in several techniques, she reported. She “found a sense of belonging” as a result of the friendships she’s created through a shared enjoy for Parton. She has reminiscences of factors she under no circumstances would have considered she’d do, like stepping on phase in Nashville to karaoke “In My Coat of Several Colours,” which “was terrifying,” she stated with a chuckle. “I just cannot essentially sing but I went for it and (the audience) have been pretty form to me.”

Hawkins has satisfied Parton, way too, numerous times at her shows, and she hopes she’s noticed the book.

“She has taught me that I can be blonde, hot, and almighty at the identical time — and highly regarded,” Hawkins reported.

She appreciates she can often turn to Parton when wanted, and phase into a pair of rhinestone significant heels. “I’m fortunate that I’ve got that — her songs will be endlessly.”