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Meeting Dolly Parton

The conference room was almost totally silent as five travel writers and I awaited the arrival of one of the most recognizable people in America. This June, the legendary Dolly Parton agreed to promote her beloved Dollywood theme park with a group interview.

It sounded like an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when I first heard about it. What I didn’t realize was how nerve-wracking that opportunity would be.

What if I stumbled over my questions enough to make them incoherent? What if I accidentally offended her? While waiting for an internationally famous music and film star, these concerns didn’t seem that far-fetched.

I felt a little comforted by the fact that everyone else at the table also seemed to be quietly worrying. Dolly Parton’s lateness didn’t help matters either. We all watched the clock as we tried to keep our heart rate in check.

Finally the familiar towering hair, full makeup, sparkling outfit and bubbly persona arrived with a whirlwind of energy. Though Dolly seemed shorter in person, her personality seemed exactly the same as she always appeared in TV and movies. Her down-to-earth sense of humor and fun showed through her every answer.

As Dolly’s easygoing nature calmed me and everyone else in the room, I began to notice a running theme in many of her answers. She repeatedly stressed the importance of knowing who you are and where you are from. This is what she attributed to staying grounded throughout the years of celebrity.

“To thine own self be true” is a basic principle, but one that frequent travelers can forget when trying to fit in somewhere new. Having a strong sense of self can help combat that doubt in your own strength.

Remembering that advice before I met the world famous celebrity probably would have saved me a lot of stress at the very least.