Shania Twain is drop dead gorgeous!
She’s a multi-Grammy Award winner and the 1999 Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association “Entertainer of the Year”.
She’s also the top-selling country female artist of all time and she has the top-selling country album of all time, “Come On Over”, and the list goes on and on and on.
I can’t wait to see her show, “Shania: Still The One”, in Las Vegas this Saturday night.
While I’ve been listening to all of my Shania albums leading up to the concert, I also just read her autobiography, “From This Moment On”.
While I may not have much in common with the superstar and millionaire Shania Twain, I’m amazed at how much Eilleen Regina (Edwards) Twain, the real person and not the international celebrity, and I have in common.
I knew that I would like the book, but I didn’t have any idea how much I’d love it. Since I’d highly recommend you reading the book and getting to know the both Eilleen and Shania, I won’t give away too many details.
Throughout some of this blog, I’ll refer to Shania as Eilleen since she didn’t change her name until 1992, right before the release of her first album, “Shania Twain”, the following year.
Eilleen Regina Edwards was born in Windsor, Ontario (Canada), on August 28, 1965, and her parents divorced when she was a small child and she was later adopted by her mother’s second husband, Jerry Twain.
Little Eilleen and her siblings (two sisters and two brothers) lived most of their childhood in Timmins, Ontario, a city with a population of about 43,000.
Money was tight for the Twain family and Eilleen found herself being moved from place to place, usually when her parents got so far behind on rent that they were evicted. The living spaces were always cramped and the kids usually had to sleep together in the same room (and for Eilleen and her sister, Carrie Ann, the same bed).
I know that cramped feeling all too well since my sister and I grew up in a five-room apartment with our parents. My sister, Tammy, had to share the bed with our mother and I slept in twin beds in the same room as my father. We were in the apartment for almost twenty years until my mother died!
As I wrote earlier, I’m going to focus somewhat on how much I have in common with Eilleen/Shania because that’s why her life and her story touched me so much.
In the book, Shania talks about living in the basement of one place as a child that had an old, tattered, and disgusting carpet on the floor. She didn’t even want to touch it with her feet, so she’d always wear socks.
One day, she decided she was going to rip up the carpet because the floor had to be in better shape. When she did, the floor was covered in maggots! She decided to leave the carpet and try to forget what was living underneath it!
Shania never invited classmates to her house because food was very scarce and the living arrangements were less than ideal.
We had a similar upbringing with no frills in the food department with just enough food for the four of us to eat and our apartment was infested with cockroaches. The landlord never seemed to care enough to hire an exterminator and aerosol bug bombs didn’t faze them!
Another thing that Eilleen and I had in common growing up in the 1970s was our love of the velvety, smooth voice of Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard.
And, we both thought Terry Jacks’ “Season in the Sun” was an incredible song!
Shania also talks about the domestic violence between her parents (another similarity we share). Once, she finally convinced her depressed mother to leave her abusive husband by driving more than 400 miles from their hometown of Timmins to Toronto, to live in a homeless shelter and then in transitional housing for two years!
Looking at how glamorous Shania is, I enjoyed reading about her being such a tomboy and working with a tree-planting crew during the summers during her teen years.
She talks about the tragic accident that killed her parents when she was 22-years-old.
That forced her to leave the big city of Toronto and move back to Timmins to keep her family together and finish raising her sister and two teenaged brothers. Eventually, she starting working in Huntsville, Ontario, about six hours south of Timmins, at Deerhurst Resort, as a singer and performer.
It was here that Eilleen Twain was discovered by Nashville scouts, was signed to the Mercury Nashville Records label, and then changed her named to “Shania”, which means “on my way” in Ojibwa.
Since Shania didn’t have the money to move to Nashville immediately, she talks about locking herself away in seclusion in a little shack owned by her boyfriend’s family in the middle of nowhere to write songs for her first album.
In a typical northern Ontario winter, it snows all the time and the average temperatures regularly drops to around twenty to forty degrees below zero. It sounded incredible!
When Shania finally moved to Nashville, her self-titled debut album was recorded and released in 1993. It featured only one song co-written by Shania.
Here’s where I have to disagree with Shania, but I can definitely see her point. She’s not proud of that first album and I understand as a singer/songwriter that you want to have control of what you put your name on. But, she was a newcomer to country music and not even American, so her label basically had her shop around from Nashville songwriters to pick songs for the debut.
I was working at Charlie’s, a gay country bar in Chicago, and we played her first single, “What Made You Say That”, all the time and I fell in love with the album and her voice.
That song only reached #55 on the Billboard County chart. The follow-up, “Dance With The One That Brought You”, also reached #55 on the country chart. That video was directed by future Oscar winner Sean Penn!
While that album didn’t blow Nashville or country music away, it did grab the attention of international rock superstar producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who had produced chart toppers by AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner, The Cars, and Bryan Adams.
The two met at “Fan Fair” in Nashville in the summer of 1993 and started writing songs for the follow-up album. During that time, they fell in love and were married at the end of 1993.
That follow-up album, “The Woman in Me”, came out in February 1995. It went on to sell 20 million copies worldwide (12 million of those in the United States).
It also produced seven Top 40 country hits, including four #1 hits: “Any Man of Mine”, “(If You’re Not in it For Love) I’m Outta Here”, “You Win My Love”, and “No One Needs To Know”.
In the book, Shania shares the story of legendary director and photographer John Derek, the husband of “10” actress Bo Derek, shooting the art work for “The Woman in Me” album and the videos to the first two hits from that album, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and “Any Man of Mine”.
I laughed and thought Derek was crazy when he told Shania, who weighed 115 pounds, that she was overweight and that he wasn’t pleased with her nose and he wanted to cut it off!
Now I know that celebrities have people work their magic on hair, make-up, and costumes, but there is no one, not even Shania, that’s going to convince me that she’s not a beauty to start with it.
I find Shania absolutely stunning in the video for “You Win My Love, the fifth hit from “The Woman In Me” and her third #1 song.
Her 1997 album, “Come On Over”, garnered worldwide sales of more than 40 million (one-half of that was in the U.S. alone).
The album also produced 11 Top 40 country hits, which is unheard of. Of those, eight reached the Top Ten, with three, “Love Gets Me Every Time”, “You’re Still The One”, and “Honey, I’m Home” all topping the country charts.
And, her last album, “Up”, from November 2002, sold eleven million copies in the U.S.
Those three albums made Shania an international superstar. She was also touring the globe constantly while being a wife and mother. Her son, Eja (pronounced “Asia”) was born in August 2001.
Once the relentless touring of more than a decade was over, Shania began spending all her time at her château near Zurich, Switzerland, and renovating another home in New Zealand.
It was during this time that her best friend, Marie-Anne Thiebaud, a woman who worked for her husband and one of Shania’s best friends, started acting more hot and cold than ever and began cancelling get togethers. (The two women were pregnant at the same time and had grown close.)
In the spring of 2008, Shania learned that her husband and Marie-Anne were having an affair. Shania talks, at length, about the love that she and Mutt had and that she felt that they were growing apart. However, she was willing to do whatever it took to save her marriage.
Through tears, sadness, and hanging out with family and real friends, Shania realized that her friend, Marie-Anne, was not a friend, but a home wrecker.
I smiled when Shania told a humorous story that I’m sure wasn’t funny, at the time, for her. A friend forced Shania to stop referring to “the other woman” as a “friend”, because she was a “bitch” and another very strong, harsh word that you shouldn’t call a woman!
While Shania didn’t want to say it, she admits when she did, it was “cathartic”! See You Next Tuesday!
Working on the book helped Shania put the infidelity and the broken marriage into perspective.
Reading the story of Mutt and Shania’s courtship and the connection they had during much of their fourteen year marriage was touching. I also felt sadness as Shania described the depression she felt when she was told by Frederic Thiebaud, the husband of the mistress, that his wife and her husband were having an affair.
As time went by, Shania cherished the friendship that was developing with Frederic (Fred) more and more. Shania’s son, Eja, had known Fred since he was born and he felt a bond with him.
Over time, the trust that developed between Shania and Fred allowed for a deeper, personal attraction to develop into love.
On January 1, 2011, Shania and Fred were married in Puerto Rico.
I’m so happy for the couple and their two children, Shania’s son and Fred’s daughter. Everyone should have a fairy tale ending after personal heartbreak enters one life.
I think that a beautiful quote that Fred sent Shania (via fiction writer Maria Robinson) sums up their relationship and it should go for everyone that’s ever had a broken heart, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Reading “From This Moment On” allowed me to see this happy ending through Shania’s eyes. I should say that I see it as Eilleen sees it. Shania writes, “Whereas I used to see a division between Eilleen the person and Shania the personality, now they have merged into one”.
I fell in love with Shania, the entertainer, with “What Made You Say That”, before superstardom kicked in. However, I really felt I got to know the real Shania by sharing so many of the struggles that Eilleen went through to become the person and the personality of Shania Twain.
“From This Moment On” is an incredible book. I didn’t want it to end.
Shania, thank you for sharing it.
I’m so excited to see Shania’s show Saturday night in Las Vegas.
I’ll even smile an extra smile that night thinking that Shania is still at the top of her game, professionally and personally. And, somewhere, maybe in Switzerland, karma is waiting for a woman with “body language posturing like a mean, hissing cat”!