After five decades in the business, Dolly Parton is not only a polished performer, she’s also a pro at life on the road. So when, at the age of 70, the star decided to mount her biggest tour in 25 years, she knew exactly how to make traveling a little more homey.
“I live on my bus – I don’t stay in hotels at all so I don’t have the hassle of airports or going in and out of hotels,” says Parton, who will play more than 60 North American cities on her Pure & Simple tour, which kicks off June 3 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The singer travels with her best friend since childhood, Judy Ogle (her husband of nearly 50 years, Carl Dean, avoids all the “hullabaloo” of celebrity life and opts to stay home, she says) on a two-bedroom, two bath bus with a kitchen stocked with the comforts of home.
“I cook a lot of food before going and I put it in the freezer,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’ll cook country things, like chicken and dumplings.” But, she says, she indulges sparingly.
“I have to stay on a low-carb diet when I’m on the road because my show clothes are so tight and I can’t afford to gain like I used to in the past,” she says. “There is nothing more uncomfortable than trying to wear those tight-ass clothes when you’re too big for them! I have to work at it cause I’m a little old thing. I’m just 5’1″ and I still have that country girl appetite, so I have to watch it. I just cheat on holidays and special days and then eat the things I really love.”
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In the past, the singer has been open about turning to cosmetic surgery – “If I see something saggin’, baggin’ or draggin’ I’ll get it nipped, tucked or sucked!” she says with a laugh – and, she adds, “I always see stuff I need to do.” But with a major tour and a new album on the horizon, “I don’t have the time! Mostly now it’s the fillers. I’d like to have my eyes done, but you should allow at least six weeks to heal for anything you do on your face. And anything you do can change your look, so I’m afraid to do much.”
She jokes that when she looks in the mirror, “I think, ‘Oh God, who is that old woman looking at me?’ ” But Parton says she knows other artists simply see her as an inspiration.
“I’m very proud of how my life has gone,” she says. “It’s touching when I hear young people that I admire say I’ve influenced them or that they admire me. It makes me feel like I might have done something right. It is kind of scary in a way – you think, ‘Oh, don’t put me up on that pedestal! What if I fall off?’ But people know me pretty good. I don t claim to be anything I’m not. I just am who I am and people accept that and that makes me feel good.”