Dolly Parton turns 72 on Friday, and we couldn’t feel luckier to have her in our lives.
Ever since her 1960 debut album, Hello, I’m Dolly, the Tennessee-born singer has made a massive, boot-shaped footprint on the music industry, as well as just about every other industry (music, business, fashion). In addition to winning nine Grammy Awards over the course of her career, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, Parton has earned two Oscar nominations and five Golden Globe noms for her performance in the 1980 film 9 to 5, as well as in 1983’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In 2016, she was honored with the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her impossibly long list of accomplishments aside, Parton is simply the best all-around human. Here’s why she’s an icon for the ages:
1. Her fashion sense has never been anything less than iconic.
If literally anyone else in the world tried to pull these looks off, the results would be disastrous. Disastrous!
2. Parton singing “Jolene” will never not give us goosebumps.
3. She convinces us that love is real.
Parton has been with her husband, Carl Dean, for more than 50 years … and is still head-over-heels. “He has been the love of my life and the life of my love,” she told PEOPLE in 2015.
4. There is no scientific evidence that she is not, in fact, an angel.
5. She’s real as hell.
We’re sick of stars who pretend they don’t wear makeup. (Parton isn’t one of them.) “I always put on a little makeup,” she told PEOPLE in 2015. “I never know who’s gonna come to my door. But if I’m in L.A., I put on full makeup in case I have to run out into the streets. I want to be able to say, ‘Yeah, my house fell down, but don’t I look good?’ ”
6. Her comedic timing is on point.
7. She’s grateful for everyone who’s helped her succeed – and clearly hasn’t let fame get to her head after all these decades.
“I’m grateful for the people who God put in my path to help my dreams come true,” she told PEOPLE in 2015. “Porter Waggoner gave me my first really big shot. There are others, too. Whether it’s a manager or an agent, you need to be grateful and not begrudge them their percentage. You gotta pay your dues like you gotta pay your tithes!”
Parton recognizes that achieving her dreams has also required horse-like persistence (hear her out). “I’m like a horse with blinders. If I’ve got a dream, I’m going to follow it and find all the ways to make it happen. You gotta put legs, arms and wings on your dreams. You can’t just hope it and think it’s going to happen. You gotta work it.”
8. THIS QUOTE: “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb … and I also know that I’m not blonde.”
9. Her positive outlook is infectious.
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
10. She’s one of the most charitable celebs around.
After wildfires devastated homes near her Dollywood amusement park in Tennessee in 2016, Parton rounded up her friends and raised millions of dollars for those affected, promising $1,000 a month to those who lost their residences. “I know it’s been a trying time for my people, and this assistance will help,” she said in a video announcement. “Thank you for your help, continued prayers, and your concern. And I hope you’ll soon visit our Tennessee mountains and experience our Tennessee spirt.”
Over the past 22 years, the organization has provided almost 100 million books to children in an effort to encourage a love of reading. And the story behind her inspiration is a tearjerker.
“I started it in honor of my dad,” Parton explains. “My dad was not able to read and write — he was a country boy with a bunch of kids, and he had to work instead of going to school when he was a little boy, and so he never had the chance to get an education.”
“And it seemed to really bother him a lot and I thought, ‘Well, what can I do for my precious dad?’ ‘Cause he was the greatest daddy in the world and one of the smartest people I’d ever known,” she adds. “So I said, ‘Dad, why don’t we put together a little program where we give children books from the time they’re born, once a month, until they start school?’ ”
“That way, they can learn to read, love books. If you can read, you can kinda self-educate,” Parton adds. “Now we’re all over the world. We’ve given away almost 100 million books, and all the money from this project goes into the Imagination Library to put more books in the hands of more children.”
“Few people in this world have touched my heart like Dolly. She has been my inspiration all my life. Her kindness, her humility, her beautiful spirit,” the actress writes. “Help me wish @DollyParton Happy Birthday!!! 🎂🎂🎂 In honor of this extra special Southern gal, 100% of today’s profits at @DraperJames will go to Dolly’s charity, @imaginationlibrary. 💕 Dolly! #HBD 🎉”