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Our Lady J Centers Praise on Dolly Parton

Sources of Comfort and Inspiration Gained from Gospel Music

Our Lady J was featured in The Wallis’s Sorting Room on Saturday, June 30, 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Lawrence K. Ho

Since Our Lady J has become such a sought after television producer, writer and actor, her stage appearances have become a rarity.  

Imagine the delight which beamed from the stage as Our Lady J performed the night before the premiere of the ‘Mother’s Day’ episode of “Pose'” which she wrote.

“It’s a delight to spend the apocalypse together,” Ms. J exclaimed a number of times from the stage throughout her performance. If last night’s experience was any indication, perhaps it’s counter-intuitive but true that embracing the anti-fantasy of annihilation can enhance a good time. Perhaps it’s the telling of her personal story of succeeding through harsh adversity that lends itself to an upbeat ambiance. Ms. J called herself “obsessed” with Ms. Parton. I call the vibe infectious and am nearly inclined to take up the invitation to view this self-penned episode in her living room as she live Tweets.

All this to say Ms. J was in fine fettle in the intimate nightclub setting of the Sorting Room inside the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts which was once the main post office for Beverly Hills complete with WPA era murals. Now re-purposed as the The Wallils, for short, the wooden pallets that decorate the Sorting Room were once used to process mail for the locals.

“You know a person had a strict religious upbringing when their clothing sports over a 1000 rhinestones,” quipped Ms. J shimmering from head to toe including the mike. In the second grade as a 7 year old she disclosed wanting to be an evangelical preacher’s wife when she grew up. This proclamation immediately flopped with her family and teachers in the Mennonite/Amish small town in Pennsylvania where she was raised. Ms. J took to intense prayer at the time to have her wish come true. Today she is living proof that prayers can come true, or as I might say positive re-frames are powerful.

It’s from performance spaces like this all over the world where Our Lady presents the “Gospel of Dolly,” an evening of Dolly Parton’s scriptural music that never mentions typical religious iconography such as talk of the Lord or Jesus, for instance. Through Our Lady J’s personal story new meaning is shed on a sampling of Ms. Parton’s greatest hits, as well as her lesser known spirit songs in this celebration of a Queen of Country.

Sure Our Lady went through her hating period when she rejected religion only to return to it when she needed a boost of comfort after her precious grandmother died and she was on the outs with her family. It was then she fully realized it was her connection to the music of the church that she cleaved to and a vehicle to re-enter her spiritual practice. As a child practicing piano also saved her from shoveling manure, as it was one or the other.

Interesting enough the episode Ms. J wrote for “Pose,” deals with a character who reunites with estranged siblings after the death of her mother. What is that advice for writers? Write what you know. Apparently this is working quite well for Ms. J.

A Staple of Our Lady J’s “Gospel of Dolly Parton,” ‘Islands in the Stream,’ without fail brings a tear to my eye every time. Video footage by Russ Turk at the Zipper Factory, NYC, 2000

Originally published at onmogul.com

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