Inside wild Dolly Parton look-alike contest where outfits cost $3,000 and you can 'pin the Botox on Kenny Rogers' | The Sun

ONE day a year, a batch of busty blondes sits together in a crowded Brooklyn barbecue joint waiting to impersonate their beloved goddess and renowned country singer – Dolly Parton.

At New York City's Mable's Smokehouse, Dolly's biggest fans spend thousands on outfits, spout country music knowledge, and compete to out lasso their rivals to take home the sought-after crown.

"You can have perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect everything, and if you don't really know anything about Dolly, you're not gonna take it home," Mable Smokehouse owner Meghan said in an exclusive conversation with The U.S Sun.

Meghan created the Dolly Parton look-alike competition in 2016 to bring together Dolly lovers and test their knowledge.

It all began after the Dolly disciple watched the 1980 film Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger.

The movie features a similar competition at a honky-tonk bar outside Houston, Texas, which really stuck with the owner.

"I was always so inspired by that movie and by that contest," the dolled-up owner said amid a teaming crowd in the busy joint.

"I thought, I really want to do this. So I took that idea and I ran with it."

Since the idea came to fruition, hundreds of people have filled her barbecue restaurant to watch contestants go to great lengths to prove their dedication to the Jolene singer.

Some of the wildest moments described by Meghan include making the Dolly fans throw lassos at targets – just like the star did in the movie 9 to 5.

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Last year, Meghan said, they had the contestants "pin the Botox on Kenny Rogers."

"You just never know what's going to happen."

Meghan added that the show has sold out every year it's been held.


This year, a motley crew of eight contestants lined up on the stage to out-Dolly each other.

The competitors ranged from a 65-year-old New Hampshire native to a drag queen who has been impersonating the county icon since 2010.

"I just love everything about her," said drag performer Sequinette.

"Her autobiography is like my Bible."

A previous winner, Lauren, said that she has likely spent $3,000 on Dolly outfits to show her dedication to the craft of impersonation.

"Don't tell my husband," she said with a laugh.

"If anybody needs to call me in the future because you need an enthusiastic person to show up and be Dolly, I'll be there for you."

Yet the competition doesn't only hinge on contestants' physical impersonation. Knowledge of Dolly's life is key to winning.

On stage, host and fellow drag performer Beth Western immediately started grilling the girls with questions about the singer.

Standing in a line, each contestant came up to the mic to be quizzed while the crowd applauded or booed.

Questions ranged from lore surrounding Dolly's songs to the county where she grew up.

Round by round, the hopeful ladies were voted off by the three judges – drag queen GiGi St Croix, self-proclaimed Dolly expert and volunteer firefighter Shawn, and last year's winner, Shenanigans.

"If somebody's a little too sloppy, that's not Dolly," said Shawn.

"If somebody's too provocative, that's not Dolly.

"Also if somebody is not as kind as Dolly – those sort of things matter to me almost more than if somebody looks and feels like Dolly."

Multiple people throughout the night dubbed the Tennessee belle the "great unifier" of America, meaning she is beloved by everyone despite their differences.

"There's something about her that's like vanilla, like chocolate chip cookies," said the winner of the very first competition Heather.

"It's like you're with your grandma in the most wholesome way."

After forcing impersonators to shotgun beers, dance to iconic Dolly songs, and reverently read from passages of her autobiography, the winner was more than clear.

One fierce competitor immediately stood out with her gorgeous yellow gown, striking resemblance, and surprisingly thorough knowledge.

One by one, her rivals fell.

But the coup de grace was a dramatic lip sync to Dolly's rendition of Stairway to Heaven complete with an air violin solo.

Sequinette flashed a gorgeous smile at the crowd when Beth Western announced that she was 2023's Dolly Parton look-alike.

"It feels amazing. I'm so happy," the classy queen told The U.S. Sun after stepping off the stage.

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"I mean, I'm sad. I hate that other people don't win," she continued in a very Dolly response.

"But I love Dolly, anything for her. I'll carry on the legacy with pride."

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