CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
Profile of Celine Dion,Shania Twain
Aired September 6, 2003 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ANNOUNCER: Now, she's balancing marriage, motherhood, and the rebirth of her career. A new day has come for Celine Dion. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. She is one of the most successful female artists in country and pop. And now, Shania Twain is back, back from two years in seclusion, back with a new album, a new tour, and a new addition to her family. It is a life that has seen equal parts of great joy, unbelievable success and unbearable sorrow. Sharon Collins has our profile.
SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With an explosive mix of sass and sex, she shimmied her way into pop music history. More Mariah than Minnie Pearl and offering a bold invitation to come on over, Shania Twain decimated the wall which divided the worlds of country and pop.
LEVY: Her country records are made like opera records. It's one little melody piled on top of another piled on top of another. It's catchier than a cold.
COLLINS: With six hit singles, 1997's "Come on Over" was a success beyond her wildest dreams, and as Nashville scratched its head, man, did she sell records.
GILL: Thirty-five million records. I have been working for 30 years and haven't done that good.
COLLINS: But the road to riches has been anything but smooth.
LEVY: Nashville has been hostile to Shania. They don't like the fact that she doesn't wear a gingham shirt and cowboy boots. They don't like the fact that she's Canadian. They don't like the fact that her model was more Barbara Streisand and Madonna than it is Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynne.
COLLINS: Disappearing from the public eye in 2000, she returned this past November with a baby boy and her first studio album in five years.
And she's already breaking records. The first week alone, "Up!" sold 874,000 copies, the largest female debut of all time. But it's been a long, rough ride for this 38-year-old superstar, from poverty, death and scandal to a successful career rooted in her parent's dream.
TWAIN: I really am sincere when I say that my intentions were never to be a star. Music was all I had, that's what I knew, and that's what my parents told me I was best at, so that's what I did.
COLLINS: Shania Twain's story begins on August 28, 1965, in Windsor, Canada. She was born Eileen Regina Edwards, and following her parents' divorce, relocated with her mother and two sisters to the mining town of Timmins.
TWAIN: I love the smell, and here I grew up building igloos and shoveling tunnels through snow banks my whole childhood.
COLLINS: In June of 1970, Shania's mother, Sharon, remarried. His name was Jerry Twain, a full-blooded Ojibwe Indian.
CARRIE ANN BROWN, SISTER: Well, my dad was a comedian, always funny, and my mom was very prim and proper, or tried to come across that way. She always had a lot to say.
COLLINS: But times were tough at #44 Montgomery. When he could find employment, Jerry Twain logged timber. He worked hard, dreamed big, but made little money.
TWAIN: Not a lot of normalcy and not a lot of stability all of the time either growing up. We didn't always have enough money to eat properly or to keep the heating on through the winter.
BROWN: We ate something called goulash a lot. Everything mixed in your fridge, you put macaroni, hamburger and it's a mixture, right? But our goulash was warm milk and bread.
COLLINS: Keeping the family afloat weighed heavily on Shania's mother, who often sank into deep depression.
BROWN: You know she would stand in bed for a lot of hours in the day. We would sometimes not even see her, unless we would go in and say, you know, "Hi, mom."
COLLINS: Music became the family's only solace. Free and abundant in a home where even school lunch was a luxury.
TWAIN: Well, I would just, you know, pack up my guitar and walk five minutes up the road, and I would be in a bush somewhere, and I would start a little campfire, and I'd sit out there all day and just write music, sing songs.
BROWN: She was always listening to the radio, always writing songs and always singing. And I remember, when we used to go to town, she would just be singing, and I used to say, "Eileen, shh, you know you're singing out loud." I was embarrassed, but she didn't care. COLLINS: With the need to make money and a child who loved to sing, Sharon Twain booked 8-year-old Shania at every open mike she could find. Soon, newspapers took notice, and a local telethon put her on the air.
TWAIN: My mother had the performing bug. She wanted me to get up on stage. I was really the type of kid who wanted to just stay in my bedroom and sing with the door closed, and write songs and never tell anybody about them.
COLLINS: A blurry-eyed grade schooler by day, pint-sized lounge singer by night, no booking was off-limits. NATASHA STOYNOFF, CORRESPONDENT, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: They would drive her around, wake her up in the middle of the night to go play after last call at the local bars, because she was not allowed into the bars until there was no alcohol being served.
BROWN: I remember my dad coming in. She'd be rubbing her eyes, you know, because she would be sleeping. She just knew that that's what she had to do.
COLLINS: In 1978, the late nights paid off. Thirteen-year-old Shania made her Canadian TV debut.
Billed as Ally Twain, the appearance only fueled her passion for music, but getting Shania to these performances was becoming expensive.
BROWN: Getting Eileen to the gigs and doing these things always -- was always a struggle. But they just found a way to do it because my mom was very, very determined that something was going to happen with Eileen.
COLLINS: In the spring of 1983, the 17-year-old got her first break, hired as a lead singer for a rock band in Toronto. With the blessing of her parents, she headed out on her own.
TWAIN: While everybody was planning on their -- you know, making college plans and off to university, and I was basically just going to be a singer.
COLLINS: Coming up, Shania raises eyebrows, going toe-to-toe with the good old boys of country music.
LEVY: Famously, Shania exposed her belly button. This is not a very Nashville thing to do, apparently.
COLLINS: But first, late night news shatters the Twain family.
BROWN: I don't think there could have been a worse day for any of us.
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ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
TWAIN: My parents' goal was for me to always sing country music, and that was what I considered more of the music of my childhood. And as a teenager, I moved on to these, whatever the bars were hiring, that's what I did.
COLLINS (voice-over): And by 1982, 17-year-old Shania had moved on to rock 'n' roll in the city of Toronto, fronting the band Longshot. Ironically, it was. The group flopped.
Back in Timmins, the Twains were doing well. Having received a small business loan, they now oversaw a tree replanting business, and every summer, Shania returned home to work alongside her parents in the Canadian bush. Times were good, but they wouldn't last.
BROWN: Well, I didn't find out until 10:00. Our friend came to pick me up and told me, so I don't think there could be have been a worse day for any of us.
COLLINS: In the cold afternoon of November 1, 1987, Shania's parents were heading to a work site on a remote logging road in northern Ontario. The last they heard was a horn.
BROWN: It was a head-on collision with a loaded log truck. You know they didn't have much of a chance. The sun was in my dad's eyes, and he just couldn't see, couldn't see where he was going, I guess.
COLLINS: Jerry and Sharon Twain died instantly. Carry Ann made the call to Shania in Toronto.
BROWN: She just screamed and cried and you know, screamed and cried, because you just don't want to believe it.
TWAIN: Now that my parents were gone, I thought, OK, they're not here to care whether I carry on with music or not. All these years, I'd spent doing music and working as a songwriter, and now the very people whose wish and dream it really was, is gone. It was a very strange, strange feeling and very strange time in my life.
NATASHA STOYNOFF, CORRESPONDENT, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Shania was thrust into this world of being an adult and being a mother and father to her siblings, so she took care of the mortgage, she paid the bills, she did the laundry, she got the kids to the school.
BROWN: It was never, you know, why couldn't you just do you this? I've got my own thing going on. It was never anything, anything like that. She just knew what she had to do.
COLLINS: But eight months later, money was running out. A friend pulled a deeply depressed Shania aside.
TWAIN: She just said, "Look, you can't just quit. Please don't, don't throw your talent away, don't quit." She said, "Look, there's a place called Deerhurst. If you can get in there, then you can live in one town and bring in a weekly paycheck." So I went and auditioned.
LYNN HILL, FRIEND: I remember her audition here when she first came to Deerhurst, and the producer had brought her over there, and there was a whole huge room full of guests, and what better place to audition someone than in front of an audience? So she went up there, and everybody just went -- OK, we'll hire her now. It was just a whole different experience. I'd never sung in high heels. I don't think I had ever worn high heels. You know girls were dancing in bikinis, and I never got the confidence to do that, but you know, I certainly learned how to wear fishnets and wear gowns, and just get more in touch with the feminine side.
LEVY: She was a showgirl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our lead vocalist, starting out with Eileen.
LEVY: She did three shows a day, singing the same songs time after time after time, and she learned a work ethnic like nothing else, that she sticks to to this day. The woman works hard.
COLLINS: And that's exactly what Richard Frank, a famous Nashville attorney thought, when he caught the 11:00 p.m. Deerhurst show in August of 1990. Having represented everyone from the Everly Brothers to Patsy Cline, he couldn't believe his ears or eyes.
BROWN: When she walked out, you couldn't see her at first. You could just hear this voice. Wow!
HILL: And she wore this green dress, and that is what knocked out the audience. She came out and sang this song and blew everybody away.
BROWN: I think that was the turning point for me when I thought, you know, I'm just getting goose bumps just thinking about it. You know what? This is it! I mean, listen to that, look at that. Then that is pretty much when things started to move.
COLLINS: With siblings now grown and with the backing of Richard Frank, the 25-year-old headed to Nashville. Just as her parents had dreamed, she was going country!
First order of business? A name change. Eileen became Shania, an Indian word meaning "on my way." And within two years, she was.
TWAIN: I thought, well, I'd better go out and get myself a recording contract, and that happened very quickly for me.
COLLINS: The debut album "Shania Twain" hit the stores in April 1993. It sold a disappointing 100,000 copies, a virtual dud in the record industry.
LUKE LEWIS, CHAIRMAN, DMG, NASHVILLE: We missed a hit. We think there was a big hit on that record, called "What Made You Say That?" It was a hit video, as it turned out, but we just couldn't get it to work at the radio station.
COLLINS: That's because Nashville didn't know what to think. The midriff-bearing Canadian was almost too hot to handle, and CMT, Country Music Television, initially banned the debut video.
LEVY: Famously, Shania exposed her belly button. This is not a very Nashville thing to do, apparently. But you know, everyone in Nashville has a belly button. Maybe they don't show it, but they've got one.
COLLINS: Coming up, Shania survives her first taste of the tabloids.
TWAIN: I have never lied about who I am and where I come from.
COLLINS: And later, the phenomenon of "Come on Over" breaks the boundaries of country and pop.
ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
COLLINS (voice-over): By 1993, a Canadian breeze had blown south, and with sassy style and killer curves, Shania Twain was about to tip the scale on hee-haw and honky tonk.
GILL: Her first video, it's so obvious, you know, to be, wow, who's she? I'm a guy.
COLLINS: Unfortunately, the sexy beach video was the only thing catching people's eye. With lackluster sales, her debut album was a flop. But in London, a reclusive rock producer by the name of Mutt Lange had caught the sultry video and he saw more than just eye candy.
TWAIN: Mutt and I first met over the phone. I had no idea that he was some big-time producer.
BROWN: She didn't know he was. And it was kind of funny, because we were at fanfare, and she was giving him a photograph. And she didn't even know how to spell Mutt, m-u-t -- you know, she's like I didn't know who this is.
TWAIN: It was all very sweet and beautiful, really.
BROWN: And of course, those who knew who he was, were like, Eileen, he's a god. What do you mean you don't know who he is?
COLLINS: Turns out Mutt Lange was one of rock's most legendary producers, and it was hardly a shock she didn't recognize him. As brilliant as he was private, he never gave interviews. He never took photographs. And with a net worth estimated at half a billion, that faceless name was synonymous with success.
LEVY: Mutt is famous as a man who produced AC/DC, the Cars, Billy Ocean, Celine Dion, the Backstreet Boys, Britney. What do these people have in common? Well, when Mutt Lange produced their record, they sold a lot of records.
COLLINS: And in January of 1995, that's exactly what "The Woman in Me" did. Produced by Lange, Shania's second album was pure cash register gold.
LEWIS: When we finally got to the end of it and realized that we sold more than 10 million records, we were, you know, kind of going, everybody did a pretty good job here, you know? And she and Mutt had created magic.
COLLINS: They had also fallen in love, marrying just months after their first encounter at the Nashville fanfare.
TWAIN: From that day on, we just got closer and closer. Within six months, we were married. It was very fast, very wonderful and beautiful.
COLLINS: And very successful. Less than three years after her recording debut, Shania Twain surpassed Patsy Cline as the best selling female country artist of all time.
TWAIN: It has been a hell of a ride.
COLLINS: The ride was about to get bumpy.
LEVY: Nashville was pissed off. Nashville assumed that the reason it was selling was because she was sexy, and sex sells.
COLLINS: Matters got worse when she chose to market the album with music videos, rather than a tour.
LEWIS: For some reason, people thought maybe she couldn't perform.
QUESTION: And when are you going to tour now?
TWAIN: '97. We'll put a tour together in the fall.
QUESTION: What's taking so long?
COLLINS: But the hardest blow came in April 1996. Her hometown newspaper accused the singer of lying about her Indian heritage.
STOYNOFF: The fact that she had talked about being Native, and then when they found out that her father was actually her stepfather, they thought that she was overstating it for publicity's sake, which to Shania, is not true.
COLLINS: She responded days later in this handout video.
TWAIN: I have never lied about who I am and where I come from.
COLLINS: Badly stung by the past year and a half, Shania returned to the studio, and 12 months later, in 1997, audiences got their first glimpse of Shania Twain. On the road, on tour, with an explosive new album.
LEVY: "Come on Over" is a career-making record. It's an icon- making record. It's the record where she went from a country performer who sold a lot of records to a pop performer who had a massive public image.
COLLINS: It was a country/pop crossover unlike anything ever seen, selling 34 million copies. To this day, it's the biggest selling female album of all time. A feat even Nashville couldn't dispute.
And at the 1999 CMA Awards, Shania rocked the house and took home the big one, "Entertainer of the Year."
GILL: I was hosting the show, and she won. I went back out, and I said, "Well, that ought to shut everybody up."
COLLINS: And then in January 2000, at the top of her game, Shania said good-bye to the spotlight and disappeared. Rumors circulated that her marriage to Lange was on the rocks.
LEWIS: I have never understood where rumors about their sort of breakup ever came from. Certainly didn't come out of any facts that I know of.
COLLINS: Retreating to their 46-room chateau in Switzerland, it seems the exhausted star just needed a break. And on August 12, 2001, the couple welcomed their first child, a baby boy, Eja DeAngelo.
TWAIN: He's beautiful and sweet and loving. All my emotions are heightened somehow. More love, so much more love in my life.
COLLINS: In November 2002, Shania emerged from her self-imposed exile with another new arrival, her fourth album, "Up!" Complete with not one but three disks, "Up!" is going, well, up. And with 3.5 million sold to date, the industry is abuzz.
LEWIS: Our hopes are that "Up!" outsells "Come on Over" and she can be the biggest seller for music ever, never mind having to put woman in front of it.
BROWN: I'm sure my mom knew it all along, that Eileen wasn't just going to be a star. She was going to be a superstar.
COLLINS: A superstar who wrote the single "From This Moment On," dedicating the words to two very important people.
BROWN: I cry every time I hear that song, because it was a song for my parents. Because of Eileen, my mom's dreams came true. I can just imagine my mom saying, "I told you, Jerry." I can imagine that that's what they're feeling.
COLLINS: Beyond the fame and fortune, at the core it seems she will always remain Eileen born with a musical gift and a parent's dream that drove her to where she stands today.
ZAHN: Shania Twain is set to kick-off her first world tour in three years at the end of this month.
ANNOUNCER: Up next...
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DION: OK. I'm OK. It looks good. Yes, please let me know. That's my thing now. I got to look good.
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ANNOUNCER: The diva gets down.
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DION: You know what I'm saying, double, double, yes.
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ANNOUNCER: The personal side of Celine Dion ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. As divas go, Celine Dion is one of a kind. She has all the trappings of a mega star to be sure, but seemingly, none of the baggage and that may be what allowed her to walk away from it all. Not long ago, Celine stepped out of the spotlight to focus on her private life. It was supposed to be a quiet time. It was anything but. Now Celine has returned with a new Las Vegas show and a new outlook. Here's Charles Molineaux.
CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty years in the business, five Grammys, 120 million albums sold, an estimated 200 million in the bank, by 1999, Celine Dion was the queen of the world. So why at the height of her popularity, at pinnacle of her career, did she walk away?
DION: It was a must. I had to take those two years. I had met life for the first time.
MALVEAUX: Disappearing from the public eye on January 1, 2000, she would face two of the most challenging years of her life.
PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Taking time off to have a baby, start a family, take care of Rene, who was -- you know, was battling cancer, going through in vitro fertilization, and you know, the sort of like a soap opera, her last two years. It was sort of like, you know, "As Celine's World Turns."
MALVEAUX: And now she's back.
DION: I was waiting for so long.
MALVEAUX: In March of 2002, Celine returned to the spotlight with the No. 1 album, "A New Day Has Come." And 12 months later, in March 2003, she was center stage once again, this time in Las Vegas with a three-year contract and a brand new attitude.
DION: The first step, first tooth, nightmare, an earache, Mommy -- that's important. So if I can do both, making a difference in my son's life and my husband's life and sing a couple songs in between that, I can't be happier.
MALVEAUX: Celine Dion debuted on March 30, 1968 in the tiny village of Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada. Within minutes of leaving Le Gardeur Hospital, she was surrounded by her first audience, 13 brothers and sisters. Celine's father, Adehmar, worked as a butcher and supported the family of 16 on $165 a week.
DUMONT: And since they didn't have any money, he used to walk to work because he would save ten cents each day by not taking the bus.
CASTRO: Fourteen kids, five kids sharing one bed. The girls had to share, you know, small bedrooms as well. And dinnertime was always an adventure because they would have dinner and then, they would flip the plates over and have dessert on that side of the plate just to minimize all the -- you know, the dish washing chores.
MOLINEAUX: Despite circumstances, the family thrived on music and each other. By two, Celine was singing for her family on the dining room table. By five, brother Michel asked her to sing at his wedding.
DION: When I started to feel the love and the warmth of the audience it got me. I said to myself, really this is what I want to do all my life. I want to be a singer.
MOLINEAUX: That dream became a reality in 1980. Celine's mother wrote a song for her 12-year-old. The title, appropriately enough, "It Was Only a Dream."
CASTRO: They did a demo, and the brother sent it to Rene Angelil, who was at the time a fledgling producer in Canada. They called in Celine and it was -- she was really awkward. She was 12 years old, not a very attractive little girl. According to Rene himself, had these big teeth, this bad hair. And she auditioned in front of him.
RENE ANGELIL, MANAGER AND HUSBAND: So she says, "I need a microphone. You know, usually, I sing with a microphone." So I said, "Hey, take this pencil, and make like it's a microphone." So she said, "OK." And in this small office, she started singing. She was another person. It really shook me up. It's -- you hear a voice like that like every 10, 20 years, an artist comes out in the world.