Even Dolly Parton's Manager Was Surprised By Her Show-Stopping Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Outfit

If you weren't one of the 41.8 million people who tuned into the 2023 Thanksgiving football game between the Washington Commanders and the Dallas Cowboys, allow us to fill you in: the real star of the afternoon was country music icon, Dolly Parton. In fact, the NBC game was the second-most watched regular-season game on record, per Spectrum News — and while we're not saying it was solely because of Parton's performance, we're not not saying that. 

The singer, who was 77 when she performed the 2023 halftime show, started her set by reminding us that, international superstar or not, she's still everyone's favorite honorary grandma. "Hey, cowboys and commanders, stop fighting and sing along with me," she began as the band played her introduction (via YouTube). But even more stunning than her singing was her bedazzled stage ensemble inspired by the Cowboys' cheerleaders. 

Parton managed to keep her show-stopping outfit a secret from everyone on her team, including her manager, Danny Nozell, who told Billboard that he first saw his client's outfit minutes before she was to go on stage.

Dolly Parton's manager commended her bejeweled fashion choice

Dolly Parton's manager, Danny Nozell, revealed to Billboard that the singer's cheerleader-inspired outfit was entirely her idea. Nozell said that his client waited until she was minutes away from her cue to walk onstage to show her team her completed halftime look. "When she came out, myself, the security, and my staff fainted," Nozell recalled. 

Nozell said he couldn't tell Parton apart from the three dozen cheerleaders who danced on the field in front of the stage, and he's right. Dolly Parton perfectly transformed herself, complete with white shorts, an attached belt, a royal blue, long-sleeve tie top, and a fringed crop vest decked with the Cowboys' stars. Of course, the singer added her signature Dolly flair with bejeweled pantyhose and a sheer bodysuit with a silver star where her navel would be.

And in her typical Dolly fashion, the singer didn't take herself too seriously while dressed up as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. While singing Queen's "We Are the Champions," she made a tongue-in-cheek gesture toward her outfit while she sang the lyric, "And bad mistakes, I've made a few." Still, Nozell — and the rest of the world — wouldn't classify her ensemble as a flub. "That is the genius of Dolly," Nozell told Billboard. "People are still talking about it."

The singer's outfit wasn't the only thing that raised a few eyebrows

Dolly Parton's short halftime set featured two of her classic tracks, "Jolene" and "9 to 5," and a condensed rendition of Queen's "We Are the Champions" into "We Will Rock You." She performed with a live backing band while standing in front of a silver star-shaped platform. The platform appeared to have a hole for a hydraulic stage elevator, causing some to speculate about whether she was having technical difficulties. 

The Dallas Morning News asked the Cowboys whether Parton was supposed to perform on the platform, but the team had no comment. Dolly tried her best to address both sides of the stadium as she walked back and forth. And while the perspective might be skewed in photographs, it does look as though Parton would've had to navigate the narrow points of the star while avoiding the massive hole in its center, making the stage a safer option. 

Prior to the halftime show, Parton had told The Hollywood Reporter she had turned down multiple offers to perform at the Super Bowl because "I just didn't think I was big enough to do it. I've never done anything with that big of a production. I don't know if I could have." But personal doubts aside, Parton did manage to pull off her Dolly-sized production — complete with big hair and her bedazzled cheerleader uniform — for a truly iconic halftime show.