By Steve Helling
April 06, 2015 12:00 PM

Not much fazes Dolly Parton – but climbing onto a carousel horse while wearing skintight denim and 6-in. heels for PEOPLE’s March 21 photo shoot proves just a little tricky. “Oh, goodness,” she says with her characteristic giggle. “This ain’t gonna be easy.”

Parton, 69, always comes out on top. In 1985, against the advice of naysayers, she partnered with the owners of a theme park in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains and created Dollywood. “When we first opened, I was so scared,” she recalls. “I was just thinking, ‘Oh, please. Let the people come.'”

They came by the carload. Thirty years later Parton is expanding her empire with a resort, DreamMore, this summer – and has no plans to slow down. “I don’t intend to ever retire unless I get sick or my husband gets sick,” she says. “I want to work until I fall over dead!”

She’s also developing a series of TV movies for NBC based on “stories from my life and songs that I’ve written.” And having a cosmetic line is on her bucket list. “I’m in my own class, but it’s mostly low,” she jokes. “I have my makeup on every day. It’s how I feel comfortable.”

And what does she want people to celebrate most about her? “There’s a brain under the wig and a heart beneath the boobs,” she says. “I may look artificial, but inside I’m totally real.”