Dolly Parton (L) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Dolly Parton Always Knew Goddaughter Miley Cyrus Was Special: 'She Just Had a Light About Her'


Dolly Parton may not have children, but she is incredibly close to her goddaughter, Miley Cyrus. The country legend and child actor-turned pop superstar regularly gush about each other. And when they're not trading shoutouts on social media, they're taking to the stage hand-in-hand. The close-knit duo have performed live at some of the biggest awards shows in the business -- a fitting platform for a bond forged in country music. 

Even when she was a little girl, Parton knew that there was something special about Cyrus, and that she would grow up to do big things. "I've always loved her, since she was little, and I knew she was special," Parton told Marie Claire. "She just had a light about her. Her sparkle, and her smile, and her eyes were always full of wonder."

How Dolly Parton Became Miley Cyrus' Godmother

Miley Cyrus grew up around country music. Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, regularly performed and toured with Parton. The country legend explained to SiriusXM's Just Jenny that she became fast friends with Billy Ray. When Miley came around, she knew she wanted to play a special part in her life.

"I worked with Billy Ray for all those years, when he had 'Achy Breaky Heart,'" Parton said. "He worked with me on some shows we did in the early days. He opened some of my shows. We just got to know each other. I wrote a song called 'Romeo,' and had him in a video. We just kind of gelled, 'cause we're both country kids. We had a lot of fun just talking about that. And then when Miley came along, I said, 'She's got to be my fairy goddaughter.'"


From day one, Cyrus was surrounded by some of the biggest names in the music industry. She was a natural, and at age 13, she booked the Disney series Hannah Montana. Her father co-starred in the series and her "fairy godmother," Dolly, appeared as a special guest. 

"When she was on that little show, I saw what great timing she had, what a great little comedian she was," Parton said. "But I'd always known her to write her little songs on her little left-handed guitar. I guess Billy Ray is the lefty. And so she just kind of grew up with us. With Billy and me--Billy Ray, her dad--, we were friends and we worked a lot together, doing shows together, traveling some. But I just knew she was just going to make it. I just knew she was a star."

Dolly Parton (L) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dolly Parton (L) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Cyrus became a superstar in her own right. Her life in the public eye has had its ups and downs, and Aunt Dolly has never been anything but supportive. Following Cyrus's sudden divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth in 2019, Parton said in an interview with People that her goddaughter would be just fine.

"Lord, I've done everything, and what I ain't done, I intend to," Parton said. "She's going to do that, too. But Miley's smart; Miley knows what she's doing. I know we think she doesn't, and she might not every minute, but I still know that she's got good stuff in her."


Over the years, the two entertainers have teamed up for numerous duets together. They performed "Jolene" at the 2019 Grammy Awards and on The Voice, proving that the country singer and pop star's voices are a powerful, if unlikely, pairing. Cyrus even performed on Dolly's 2020 Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, and they've been known to hit the stage together at Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. 

Parton even told Entertainment Tonight in 2019 that she initially wanted Cyrus to play Jolene in her Netflix series Dolly Parton's Heartstrings.

"Years back when I used to think of Jolene, you know, before Julianne [Hough] came on, I used to think... I'd love -- Miley would have been great at that as well," said Parton. "But Miley was doing other things. It wasn't that kind of a thing, but she would have been great in that as well."

Cyrus is every bit as proud of her godmother, and she's quick to recognize the impact Dolly Parton has had on songwriting, and in the music industry at large. She even had the honor of presenting her with the first-ever Hitmaker Award at Billboard's 2020 Women in Music event. 


"I've never met anyone that doesn't like Dolly Parton," Cyrus said. "And it's safe to say if they don't like her, it's only because they love her." She went on to explain the ways in which Parton has influenced other genres of music and "has paved the way for other women songwriters, encouraging them to take ownership and get the credit that they deserve -- an issue many women in the songwriting industry still struggle with today."

"When Elvis [Presley] sought to record Dolly's 'I Will Always Love You,' Dolly famously said no, keeping control of her song that Elvis wanted half of the publishing royalties to," Cyrus said. "Slay all day, Dolly."

Parton and Cyrus will team up once again for Dolly Parton's Magic Mountain Christmas and Miley's New Year's Eve Party.



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This article was originally published in January of 2021. It was updated on Dec. 1, 2022. 

READ MORE: Dolly Parton Has Plans for a Museum, Restaurant and 'Dolly Center' in Nashville

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