Dolly Parton says her incredibly rough childhood is what helped her become a star

Dolly Parton is one of country music’s biggest stars, and it’s hard to believe there’s ever been a whisper of darkness behind her megawatt grin. With her upcoming TV biopic, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, however, the superstar singer has dug into both the good and the bad of her difficult upbringing.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Parton said “I would trade nothing for being brought up in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’ve never been ashamed of my people no matter how poor or dirty we might have been. I’ve always loved being from where I am, and having the folks that I’ve had.”

Biographies by Parton’s sister Stella and the star’s own interviews have given some details about just how difficult that child was. According an interview in Closer, Dolly, one of 12 children, slept on straw mattresses in a home without running water or electricity. According to Stella’s biography, Tell It, Sister, Tell It: Music, Memories, and Miracles, their father’s drinking and mother’s untreated mental illness caused great suffering for the family.

Dolly credits her faith and love for her family with getting through these difficult years. Rather than spanning her entire life, her TV movie focuses exclusively on her hardest times growing up, and how she found joy and beauty in them. “It’s made me what I am…It’s that spiritual base; it’s that family; love of family; it’s just that simple life, feeling like part of nature,” she told ET.

It’s no surprise that country music, with it’s long history of blending pain, love, and faith into melody, accepted Dolly with open arms. After high school, she hightailed to Nashville and scored her first major hit with the song “Joshua” in 1971, becoming one of music’s greatest rags-to-riches stories. Mega-success soon followed- the woman has her own theme park, for goodness’ sake- but who knows if any of it would have happened without the fortitude gained in those first difficult years? We’re betting her memorable voice would have soared either way, but it’s wonderful to know she feels her humble beginnings were the key to her own success.

(Image via Twentieth Century Fox)