On My Radar: Stephanie Beatriz Explains Her Love for Dolly Parton & What She Taught Her About Being Poor

Dolly Parton performs in Perth, Australia
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Get inside the mind of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Stephanie Beatriz as she gives you an exclusive look into the show, her (hilarious) thoughts on pop culture, her (serious) appreciation for Dolly Parton and basically anything else that enters her radar.

Have you heard her sing? I mean. COME ON.

I discovered Dolly fairly late in the game. I was in my teens when I first brought my first Dolly album, but it wasn’t until I hit my twenties that I really fell in love with her. And boy did I fall HARD. The hair, the clothes, the voice, the rhinestones, the body! She's the reason I will always love big hair and high heels.

She's got this song, “Coat of Many Colors,” that I just adore. In it, she sings about growing up with so little that her mother had to sew her a coat from a box of fabric scraps and rags someone had given her family. While her mother sews, she tells Dolly the Bible story of Joseph and his fabulous many-colored coat, and subsequently Dolly is SUPER excited and cannot WAIT to strut into school wearing her new handmade masterpiece!

And then she does. And every damn kid at school makes fun of her for being poor.

Now, here’s where things could go south quick, right? Maybe the incident would inspire Dolly to take revenge and use her Dolly powers to explode the gym in a ball of fire à la Carrie?

Nope. Not even a little fire. Here are the lyrics:

I couldn't understand it, for I felt I was rich.

And I told them of the love my momma sewed in every stitch.

And I told ‘em all the story momma told me while she sewed,

And how my coat of many colors was worth more than all their clothes.

But they couldn't understand it and I tried to make them see--

That one is only poor only if they choose to be.

I know we had no money, but I was rich as I could be,

In my coat of many colors my mama made for me.

Those italics are mine, because that is my fav dolly lyric of all time.

Don't get me wrong, $$$ makes the world go round. I had a couple years living in NYC where it was some hand-to-mouth barely any paycheck action. New York was hard; everything about that city is a little tougher than anywhere else. I’d listen to Dolly on the subway on my way home while I thought about the craptastic events of the day – auditioning for Juliet while the director digs into a giant bag of loud crunchy chips and didn’t even look up. Having a roomful of "friends" laugh at me cause I brought homemade cookies to a party instead of wine (I couldn't afford the wine). My shift working at theatre box office in Midtown and getting screamed at by patrons because their tickets (which I didn’t book) were wrong. Once a guy got right up in my face and I could smell his turkey sandwich breath as he yelled at me that I was a stupid cunt. I had so little, it was such a tough time, but I refused to be poor.

In this simple country song she lays it out straight – she’s Dolly Parton, your personal country western hippie guru – and just like she says, you’re only poor if you see yourself that way. Your real worth is deep and innate and no one can take it from you unless you give it away. You can decide that you will live a life that celebrates everything that you are: you can choose to remember that you were once a little child who was unafraid, unselfconscious, and brimming over with the wealth of love. Listen, if a dirt-poor little girl in a coat made out of rags can think she is rich, then you and I can too. 

Read more of Stephanie's thoughts by reading her other On My Radar entries here.