Did Dolly Parton Covertly Enter Look-Alike Contest — and Lose to a Drag Queen?

"They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year and so I just over-exaggerated," Parton told ABC's "Nightline" in 2012.

Published March 11, 2024

 (Ian Gavan Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Ian Gavan Getty Images

In early 2024, rumors recirculated on social media posts across Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) claiming that country music icon Dolly Parton once took part in a Dolly Parton look-alike contest at a Los Angeles gay bar, but lost — to a drag queen.


Parton herself has recounted the story in her memoir and in interviews, providing firsthand confirmation of the event. The story aligns with her larger-than-life personality and her strong connection to the LGBTQ+ community, which is well-documented. 

In her 2012 memoir, "Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You," the diminutive singer and actress wrote about how she entered the contest at the bar, which was located on Santa Monica Boulevard near her home in West Hollywood. While the audience at the bar went crazy for the other Dollys in the contest, they didn't have quite the same response when she walked across the stage. Per the New York Daily News, she wrote:

I overexaggerated my makeup, but they didn't know who I was. I guess they thought that this little guy just decided to walk across the stage.

According to the CBC, Parton did not identify herself as the real Dolly Parton when she arrived at the bar. Along with her fellow competitors, she was handed a number and told to line up. As they sashayed one-by-one across the stage, the contestant who received the loudest audience applause would be declared the winner. 

Parton admitted she received the least applause. This is what she said in a 2012 interview on ABC's  "Nightline" while recalling the look-alike contest:

They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year and so I just over-exaggerated, made the beauty mark bigger, made my eyes bigger, the hair bigger — everything. … All of these other beautiful drag queens had worked for months and weeks getting their clothes and all that, and they were dressed like me. So, I just got in the line and I just walked across [the stage] and they just thought I was some little, short gay guy. And I got the least applause but I was just dying laughing inside. I say it's a good thing I was a girl or I'd be a drag queen.

While a guest on Harry Connick Jr.'s now-defunct talk show "Harry" in 2017, Parton once again told the tale of the look-alike contest, telling Connick, "And here I come walking across the stage and I got the least applause of anybody! So, I've always said it's terrible when you lose a Dolly Parton look-alike contest!"

This anecdote about Parton losing in a look-alike contest to a drag queen only adds to her legendary status and her longstanding support for the LGBTQ+ community.


8 Times Dolly Parton Cemented Her Status as an LGBTQ+ Icon. Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.

Aman, Melanie. "Dolly Parton Once Entered a Dolly Look-Alike Contest and Lost — To a Man." Woman's World, 10 Dec. 2021,

Connelly, Sherryl. "Hello, Dolly! Parton Gets a Lot off Her Chest in 'Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You.'" New York Daily News, 18 Dec. 2012,

"Dolly Parton Entered a Dolly Parton Look-Alike Contest. And Lost."  CBC, 18 May 2023,

"Dolly Parton on Gay Rumors, Losing a Drag Queen Look-Alike Contest and New Memoir." ABC News, Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.

"'Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You.'" Dolly Parton | Official Website, Accessed 6 Mar. 2024.

Nikki Dobrin is based in Los Angeles and has previously worked at The Walt Disney Company, as well as written and edited for People, USA Today and The Hill.