As the best-selling female artist in country music history, and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, Shania Twain is going to live on forever – at least in our hearts.
Often referred to as the “Queen of Country Pop”, she conquered the world and became a global superstar in the 90s.
But few know the struggles she has faced in her life. First, she was a poor, starving kid before her breakthrough. Not to mention the fact that her life changed completely at 22 – when an unbearable tragedy forced new responsibilities upon her…
Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, on August 28, 1965. She would later change her surname when Shania’s mother, Sharon, remarried a man called Jerry Twain.
Since Shania’s biological father wasn’t present during her upbringing, she never publicly acknowledged him as her dad. Instead, Jerry took it upon himself to raise Shania, legally adopting her and her two sisters.
”My father (Jerry) went out of his way to raise three daughters that weren’t even his. For me to acknowledge another man as my father, a man who was never there for me as a father, who wasn’t the one who struggled every day to put food on our table, would have hurt him terribly,” Shania once said.
All things considered, Shania had a difficult childhood. She grew up in poverty in Timmins, rural Canada, and her family was far from wealthy. Her step-father Jerry, a full-blooded Ojibway, had a hard time providing for the family and earned little money.
As a result, Shania and her sisters didn’t always have food on the table. Sometimes, the only thing served was a dish known as “goulash”: dry bread with boiled milk and brown sugar. During the cold winters in Canada, Shania was forced to wear bread bags on her feet because her parents couldn’t afford proper boots.
But as a young girl, she never told anyone about her situation. The future Queen of Country Pop feared that the authorities would break up the family if she spoke up about their hardships.
Lived in ”survivor mode”
Meanwhile, the marriage between Sharon and Jerry was also rocky. At one time, Shania convinced her mom to run away from Jerry, so Shania, her mom and her sisters fled to a homeless shelter in Toronto. However, when Shania was 16, her mother returned to Jerry, and they decided to give things another try.
Shania told how she lived in “survivor mode” into her adult years, due to the instability of her childhood home. She didn’t feel that she could rely on her parents to neither protect her or to be consistent caregivers.
Now, when Shania turned eight, she had started singing at bars to help pay the bills at home. It was a daring move for a young girl, and Shania didn’t exactly like doing it. At the same time, though, she could earn as much as $20 a night, a vital economic injection in her struggling family household.
“My deepest passion was music and it helped. There were moments when I thought, ‘I hate this.’ I hated going into bars and being with drunks. But I loved the music and so I survived,” she said in Shania Twain: The Biography.
Performing at rural bars and in retirement homes in Canada also helped Shania develop her stage language and explore her talent. Before long, she was ready for a bigger scene.
When she was 13, Shania got to perform on the Tommy Hunter Show, a legendary country music variety show that aired on CBC Television and ran for 27 years. Hosted by Tommy Hunter, known as “Canada’s Country Gentleman,” it gave Shania an excellent opportunity to promote herself as a country singer.
In the mid-1980s, Shania was a struggling singer-songwriter trying to establish herself in the music industry. She had joined her first band, Longshot, as a 16-year-old, but relocated to Toronto when she was 21.
As time went on, more and more people began to discover the talented and beautiful songstress. When famous country singer Mary Bailey saw Shania perform in Sudbury, Ontario, she was stunned.
“I saw this little girl up on stage with a guitar and it absolutely blew me away. She performed Willie Nelson‘s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Her voice reminded me of Tanya Tucker, it had strength and character, a lot of feeling. She’s a star, she deserves an opportunity,” Bailey, who would later become Shania’s manager, recalled.
“She sang a few songs that she had written, and I thought to myself, this kid is like nineteen years old, where does she get this? This is from a person who’s lived sixty years”.
In 1987, the road was open for Shania, and she had every opportunity to break through as a country artist. Nashville and big money were waiting for her.
Then tragedy struck and changed everything.
On the afternoon of November 1, 1987, Shania’s parents were driving on a remote logging road on their way to a work site.
Unfortunately, they collided with a truck loaded with timber. Both Jerry and Sharon died in the crash, leaving behind two sons and three daughters.
“I feel like I’ve been this tree with good sturdy roots for 30 years, then all of a sudden someone comes along and is trying to cut me down, cut a part me off,” Shania said.
When she heard the news, Shania was devastated. She decided to return to her native Timmins. Instead of focusing on her music career, Shania had to take care of her younger siblings, who were 13, 14, and 18 at the time.
“It was a very, very difficult time. But it was also a turning point in my life that, I think, matured me, brought me up to where I should have been in the first place at that age,” she told CBC.
She raised them all by herself, ensuring they had the support they needed. Later, Shania decided to move to Huntsville, Ontario, with all her siblings. There, she landed a job as a singer and dancer at the Deerhurst Resort.
“I was just going to give up music,” Shania said in 1995.
“I thought, my family comes first. I have to take care of them. I didn’t even think of my future…. I’m lucky I got the job at Deerhurst, because it was music. I didn’t know where I was going to go from there.”
Road to stardom
During her time at Deerhurst, the gorgeous singer, with her signature brown hair and beautiful voice, developed her skills as an entertainer.
After putting together a demo tape of her song, she caught the attention of a Mercury Nashville Records executive. Shania was invited to Nashville and released her self-titled debut album, Shania Twain, in 1993. It wasn’t a commercial success, but received positive reviews from critics.
One person who really loved what he heard was South African record producer Mutt Lange. In fact, he was so impressed that he reached out to Shania and asked if he could produce and write some songs with her.
After meeting at Nashville’s Fan Fair in June 1993, they started an intense collaboration and became very close in a short time. Six months later, the couple married. Shania was more than a decade younger than Mutt, but the couple obviously had something special. Together, they wrote many hit songs on the forthcoming albums that would catapult Shania into stardom, The Woman in Me (1995) and Come On Over (1997).
By 2007, The Woman in Me had sold more than 12 million copies in the United States. At the time of its release it was a huge success, turning Shania Twain into a star overnight.
“We just took a stab in the dark, followed our instincts, and it worked out. I think there was something on that album for everybody,” Shania told The News Tribune in 1997.
Most often, Shania wrote the lyrics, and Mutt created the music. While producing Come On Over, Mutt tried to slip in riffs from rock-n-roll; he had previously worked with AC/DC and Def Leppard.
The outcome was a marriage of country & rock, resulting in an international pop breakthrough and 40 million copies sold worldwide. The 1997 album featured many of Shania’s most famous songs, including “You’re Still The One” and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”.
“In my mind, I was just being myself and that was the great thing of all — to just be able to be myself and let my personality come through in the music,” Shania told The Associated Press.
It is no exaggeration to say that “Shaniamania” hit America full force in the late 1990s. Today, Come On Over is the ninth highest-selling album by any type of artist in the US, and the top-selling country album in history.
Shania Twain marriage
On August 12, 2001, Shania and Mutt Lange welcomed a son. They named him Eja (pronounced “Asia”) and, according to the media, Shania delivered her son at a hospital in Switzerland, without any “media fanfare”.
The down-to-earth charm that earned her admiration from all over the world was reflected in her pregnancy. Shania kept things quiet and private – she released no details about Eja when he was born.
A few years later, however, she would be forced to go through a public divorce, one where less flattering details came out in the media.
For many years, Twain’s marriage had been plagued by rumors – some gossip columnists claimed that the couple had huge problems. Shania commented on the rumors in 1997, denying that the couple would divorce.
”Mutt and I are an unlikely pair,” she said.
“There’s been talk in the tabloids that we’re divorcing, but we are very happy. We love each other in every way. We have a great creative relationship and a great personal relationship. We feel as strong as ever – and “Still the One” is sort of my own personal song about marriage.”
In 2008, though, Shania and her husband separated. The reason? Lange had engaged in an affair with Shania’s best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud.
Shania was, of course, completely heartbroken. She said she cried constantly and took five baths a day. According to the country star, she was ”ready to die”.
“I’ll be honest: when your husband leaves you, and falls into the arms of your close friend, your self-esteem can really suffer,” she said.
Shania and Marie-Anne were really good friends who had first met when the latter was hired as an assistant and interpreter for Mutt Lange. After finding out about the affair, Shania confronted her so-called friend.
”I just told her that she was a bad person – that’s all I could get out!’
‘When I left her, I thought, “You’re such a wimp, you coward!”‘
Shania Twain husband
Soon, things would take another unexpected turn. While trying to cope with her heartbreak, Shania found love again.
In 2011, Shania married businessman Frédéric Thiébaud, Marie-Anne’s former husband. The two bonded over the heartbreak and tied the knot in Puerto Rico in front of 40 people, mostly close friends and family.
“I don’t take any day for granted any more. Fred has give me a new lease on love,” Shania told the Daily Mail.
Shania said she had found “a true friend and a dear gentleman” and that her husband of 10+ years is a true gift to her. When they started dating, Fred surprised her with romantic trips – once he flew her to a Swiss glacier, and once he hired a whole movie theatre just for her.
“It’s twisted. So beautifully twisted,” she said.
“To express my love, words are not enough. I’m more in love with her every day,” Thiebaud added.
Shania Twain today
Shania Twain is a long-time resident of Corseaux, Switzerland, where she resides with her husband. She rarely gives interviews and the Queen of Country Pop is known for being notoriously private.
In recent years, she has released several albums with varying degrees of success. Right now, she’s doing a show in Las Vegas, where she takes “fans on a journey through her award-winning career with the best elements from her iconic videos and visual spectacles of her sold out global tours.”
She has also tried her luck in the film industry, appearing in several movies over the years. In 2019, she starred alongside John Travolta in Trading Paint, and in 2020 portrayed the mother of singer Jeremy Camp in the autobiographical movie I Still Believe.
Though Shania does not appear as often on the top lists today, she has left a massive mark in popular culture. Once the reigning queen of country music, she helped influence artists such as Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood.
“I think we were all definitely influenced by Shania, even if we don’t realize it. (Her music) was so different and kind of revolutionary at the time. She definitely paved the way for a lot of us,” Carrie Underwood told AP in 2016.
Shania Twain on aging
Shania was also very forward-thinking with her outfits and classic supermodel looks. In 2009, she was voted the No. 1 Most Beautiful Canadian by readers of Hello! magazine. Over the years, the country star has been pretty open about her secrets as regards looking young.
Reportedly, she’s a vegetarian, eats a lot of raw food, and meditates on a daily basis.
“A happy heart comes first, then the happy face,” she said.
Shania, now 57, also revealed how she’s dealing with the effects of age.
“I’m pretty insecure about my changing body… I’m letting ‘the girls’ hang loose under my sweat clothes around the house and when someone comes to the door, I cross my arms under them for support,” she told EW.
“For me personally, I’m sure it’s very different for everybody, but I just started with time. Stepping out of battles that I couldn’t win. I mean, you know, aging is a battle you can’t win,” she said in 2020, in the LadyGang podcast.
“That battle and the focus and energy it takes, is taking up too much space! In my life, my emotional state, my mental state. I’ve got songs to write. I’m not gonna sit around,” said Twain.
Are you also a fan of Shania Twain? I think she’s still gorgeous and more important – a really great woman. Shania is an example for us all. Love and just admire her!
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