Diana DeGarmo wants you to know she’s all natural from the waist down.
The American Idol alumna, currently starring in the touring production of 9 to 5, has to don quite the getup to play Doralee Rhodes, the role made famous in the film version by Dolly Parton.
“People always ask if I’m padded on the rear end, but I’m proud to say that’s all me,” she laughs on the phone from Kansas City, where she’s currently performing. “I’m not naturally a double D, so I have to fill in up top. There’s also a corset, all the makeup and that big blonde wig. The cherry on top is the lovely five-inch heels. I’ve ruined my ankles a few times, but as Dolly would say, ‘Fashion over function.’”
While the nightly physical transformation into Dolly is quite complex, embodying her essence came surprisingly easily. In particular, DeGarmo’s rendition of “Backwoods Barbie,” a song as much about Parton as the character she plays in the film, is enough to take a true Parton fan’s breath away.
“Like any good Southern woman, I’d seen the film more times than I can count,” the Georgia native says. “I grew up being a big fan of Dolly, and so the biggest challenge was to figure out how to bring myself to the role and not just be a Dolly impersonator.”
Like Parton, DeGarmo embraces her gay fans.
“I call myself gay flypaper,” she laughs. “I have a big gay following and I embrace it. Growing up working as a model and in the theatre, I was surrounded by gays. It’s tragic there’s a stereotype that all Southerners are homophobic, because not all of us are the same. It goes to show you should never make assumptions about anyone because of how they look or where they’re from.”