Often, a gulf exists between the haves and the have-nots—a gulf that only widens as fame and success increase. But in the case of Dinah Shore, a bridge existed in place of a chasm. When LIFE dedicated its cover to Shore in 1960, she was the most successful actress on television, watched by 32 million viewers of NBC’s Chevy Show, later renamed The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. The singer, actress and TV personality would have a career that spanned half a century. But she was as relatable to the average American woman—or more accurately, white woman of at least modest means—as the housewife in the split-level next door.
The Nashville-born entertainer graduated from her college days as a sociology student and cheerleader to become a radio star, bestselling recording artist, TV host and actress. Her multi-hyphenate professional career was matched only by her dedication to her family—despite long hours at work, the magazine explained, she “still knows just where her kids are all of the time and when they last washed their hair.” In an era during which models of working motherhood were few, Shore's life was an example of a challenging but attainable balancing act (one which, to be sure, was made easier— though never easy—by a healthy bank account).
Shore’s blend of Southern manners and, in LIFE’s words, “triumph of talent and personality over rather ordinary good looks,” led her to be voted among America’s most admired women in four separate Gallup polls throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. Her approach to fashion—classy but never risque—encapsulates best how so many women felt about her: Of her couture frocks, LIFE wrote, “housewives feel, ‘If Dinah can wear them, I can too.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.