Shania Twain Has Had Quite The Transformation

This article includes mention of mental health and allegations of sexual assault.

When the familiar country tune "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" comes on, it's hard not to belt out the lyrics that made Shania Twain a star. Decades later, her revolutionary albums are still widely popular, and the multi-Grammy Award-winning artist continues to make strides in her career. She released her album "Queen of Me" in 2023, proving to the country music world that she could still sell out arenas for her comeback world tour.

But Twain's journey in the music industry wasn't without its setbacks. While she may know something about crooning to fans in skin-tight leopard bodysuits and even making a top hat look sexy, not everyone was on board with the artist embracing her feminine side. Many had opinions on the female-empowered themes in her songs, as feminism wasn't exactly a popular topic on everyone's minds in the 1990s. 

Regardless of the obstacles, the "That Don't Impress Me Much" singer shattered public expectations. Her rags-to-riches story makes her success much sweeter, given that Twain's childhood was far from perfect. Silver spoons and doting parents were an unimaginable reality to the star growing up, but the country music star has gone on to channel the pain from her past into her empowerment and evolution.

Shania Twain wasn't always her name

While fans may know her as Shania Twain, the country music artist was given a different name at birth. Speaking on her radio station, "Home Now Radio," she revealed that she was given her last name after her stepfather adopted her. "I was born Eilleen Regina Edwards, and then I was adopted and I became Eilleen Regina Twain," she explained. "Then I became a professional singer and I needed a stage name that sounded a little less like my grandmother's name, because I'm named after my grandmother, both my grandmothers, Eilleen and Regina." 

The singer fell in love with the name Shania on happenstance. "I met somebody with the name Shania, thought it was beautiful, and Shania Twain was born," she added. As with many artists with stage names, Twain admitted that there are two versions of herself. While she can rock out to her pop-infused ballads like "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" and sing confidently about men not meeting her standards, the singer has a much more timid side in her day-to-day life. "I'm a quiet person. I do like solitude," she told The Guardian

As for whether or not she considers herself more Shania or more Eileen, she answered: "Both. But when I speak to myself I say Eilleen: 'Come on, Eilleen!'" adding that Shania represents her professional side while Eileen has a more tomboy approach. 

Twain grew up in an abusive household

Shania Twain's past was anything but perfect, but the artist has used it as fuel for the hit songs that made her a household name. In an interview with iNews, she shared that she used music to cope with her difficult childhood, which was riddled with abuse and neglect. The "You're Still The One" singer grew up alongside two sisters and two brothers, raised by their mother, Sharon, and stepfather, Jerry Twain, in Ontario, Canada.

"There was a lot of violence, off and on throughout my whole childhood," she explained to iNews. "I was often unsure if, when I woke up in the morning, my mother would still be alive or if my father would still be alive or we would still be alive. You really learn how to live and function while you're afraid." Growing up with little money meant that Shania helped pay the bills in her household. The singer put her voice to use at just 8 years old, singing in bars to help make ends meet. "I don't really ever remember feeling like a child. I always had a lot of responsibility," she recalled.

The "Not Just A Girl" singer revealed that her stepfather sexually abused her as a child, which made it difficult to come to terms with her own changing body as she got older. "That cringey feeling that you get when things are outside the lines of being appropriate — I took that with me for the rest of my life," she lamented.

She lost both of her parents in a car accident

Shania Twain knows a thing or two about growing up fast, especially since she was kickstarted into adulthood after she lost both her mother and stepfather at a young age. In 1987, 22-year-old Twain was taking a community college class when she learned the shocking news that changed her life forever. On an episode of the "Making Space with Hoda Kotb" podcast, the singer remembered: "My sister had called me and told me that they died in a car accident. I just, you know, I fell apart totally, just into shock for days, and I just couldn't let go of them."

Twain quickly fell into the parent role for most of her siblings, since her older sister was already married with children of her own. "My younger sister was still living at home, and my two younger brothers were still, you know, 13 and 14 years old," she explained. None of her parents' relatives were able to take on a guardian role without separating her younger siblings, so Twain decided to become the sole caretaker.

The role came easily to her, however, as Twain often acted as a parent to her younger siblings when their mother dealt with bouts of depression. The tragic accident may have left the songwriter without a grounding force in her life, but it brought her closer to her siblings. "My kids — I call them that often. I know they're not mine, but I say that," she added.

Twain worked at McDonald's before fame

Before millions of fans chanted her name worldwide, Shania Twain was serving up fries at the local McDonald's. While many celebrities look back on their pre-fame days with cringe-worthy memories (Kim Kardashian's closest cleaning business anyone?), Twain didn't mind serving up french fries and Happy Meals. In an interview with ET Canada (via People), the star revealed she was a jack-of-all-trades at the famous fast food joint. 

"I worked at McDonald's in several departments, but I loved the drive-thru," she said. "I always love, like, 'Welcome to McDonald's, can I take your order please?' It's just very quite rhythmic, and I like to serve. I like to make people happy," she concluded. While the singer was great with customers, she also liked to handle behind-the-scenes operations. "My favorite station outside of the drive-thru was the fry station. I just love to make the perfect fry. You know, the kind you see on TV," she recalled.

From her school desk to the frying machine, Twain's schedule as an adolescent was packed. When the weekend came around, the artist recalled using her free time to perform on the weekends at music gigs. While she had dreams of making it big, the "When You Kiss Me" singer learned the value of hard work and prepared for the future. When she was confident that her siblings could manage on their own, Twain sent off a demo tape to Nashville music executives, which ultimately landed her a record deal.

She found love after releasing her debut album

Shania Twain found love as well as a new music producer when she met her first husband Robert John "Mutt" Lange in 1993. After her first self-titled album failed to meet expectations upon its release that year, Lange reached out to the singer to help produce her sophomore project. But their relationship evolved from business to pleasure, and the two developed a romantic connection shortly after meeting and got married in December 1993.

While Lange helped Twain craft and hone the rock-country fusion sound on her second album, Twain revealed that she also was behind much of the sound on "The Woman in Me" album. She told Interview magazine: "A lot of those ideas were things I was working on before I met him, but when you get together with the right person, all the right things seem to start happening."

Twain noted that much of the duo's songwriting process is intertwined with their relationship and everyday lives. "We sit around and write songs during commercial breaks while we're watching TV, or while we're going for groceries. It's almost like extended conversation for us," she explained.

Twain became a star at 30 years old

While many artists skyrocket to fame as child stars or teenage heartthrobs, Shania Twain achieved her success later in her life. But the singer had a lot of responsibility at an early age, taking care of her three younger siblings after her parent's death and singing at hotel resorts to putting food on the table for her family. 

Her 1993 self-titled album was unfortunately but a drop in the bucket on country radio. But when her sophomore album, "The Woman in Me," was released in 1995, it launched the country artist to international success and topped the charts, ultimately earning Diamond-certified status. After working with rock legends like AC/DC, her husband, Robert John "Mutt" Lange's, expertise and collaboration led to the singer's second album becoming a major success. The project produced hits like, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" and "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!" The album ultimately won Twain her first Grammy for best country album in 1996.

One of the album's singles, "Any Man of Mine," was Twain's first-ever entry into the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1995. "I was already 30 when I had my first chart hit. That's pretty old," she told iNews. Age was but a number for the star, as Twain went on to sell over 100 million albums, and snag the title of the top-selling female singer in country music history.

Her music was considered controversial

Not everybody was excited to see Shania Twain singing female-empowered anthems and inspiring women to own their feminine side. While Twain became a sensation with the release of her second album, "The Woman in Me" and earned herself five Grammys, some critics were laser-focused on sexualizing her looks and criticizing her for her persona. Going braless in music videos, wearing crop tops, and singing about men who "don't impress" her much, wasn't exactly the mold for female country artists in the late 1990s when she rose to fame.

In an Associated Press interview, Twain recalled how her label thought that male viewers would perceive her as "too forward-thinking for a woman" during the rollout of her sophomore album. Everywhere she went she was judged for her revealing looks, Canadian roots, or being multi-faceted in multiple music genres. "I didn't realize I was going to be such an offensive artist to the country music genre," she told iNews. "I wasn't country enough and I'll never be country enough. But it didn't faze me. It was not threatening to somebody that had already been through so much."

But it's because of Twain's mega-confidence and unapologetic attitude in country music that made way for other forward-thinking stars like Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, and Maren Morris. "I think we were all definitely influenced by Shania, even if we don't realize it," Underwood told the Associated Press in 2016. "[Her music] was so different and kind of revolutionary at the time. She definitely paved the way for a lot of us."

Twain welcomed her one and only child

Shania Twain went from belting out country hits to singing lullabies when she welcomed her one and only child, Eja, with her then-husband Robert John "Mutt" Lange in 2001. It was a major change for the artist, who at the time just came off a career-high after releasing the critically acclaimed album "The Woman in Me" in 1995, as well as the 1997 record "Come On Over" — featuring the ever-popular track, "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" – which holds the title for the top-selling female solo artist album of all time, with over 40 million units sold.

"My priorities, of course, have changed. He's my focus of every day," Twain admitted of motherhood in a 2002 interview on CBC (via People). "He's just brought so much more love into my life." Twain and Lange even moved to Switzerland following the birth of their son to give him an upbringing away from the limelight. In an interview for Redbook (via People), she expressed her hopes for her child's future. "I would like him to be well-rounded, humble and honest, without having to be deprived to develop that character," she noted.

Twain also added that she hoped her child wouldn't be tarnished by the lasting effects of fortune and fame, one that Twain wasn't born into herself. "When you don't come from struggle, gaining appreciation is a quality that's difficult to come by. So we go out of our way to try to keep him appreciative," she told Redbook.

She contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite

After riding the high from the record-breaking sales of her "Come On Over" album, Shania Twain was ready to hit the road touring when a life-altering medical incident put a halt to her career. In her Netflix documentary, "Not Just A Girl" (via Vanity Fair), the artist recounted how she was riding a horse when she got bit by a tick that carried Lyme disease in 2003. Twain contracted the disease, which caused her to take a step back from the spotlight for nearly a decade due to the symptoms she dealt with following the diagnosis.

"My symptoms were quite scary because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy. I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was gonna fall off the stage ... I was having these very, very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly, every minute or every 30 seconds," she recalled in the documentary, adding, "My voice was never the same again. I thought I'd lost my voice forever." 

Doctors discovered years later that her changed voice was caused by nerve damage from Lyme disease. "Until I got to the bottom of why I was having a problem with my voice, there wasn't really much I could do about it," Twain explained on the show, "Loose Women." The singer underwent an open-throat surgery in 2018 due to her diagnosis.

Twain swapped husbands with her former best friend

Shania Twain's whirlwind of a divorce from Robert Lange had a dramatic twist — she and her former best friend traded husbands. The decline of Twain and Lange's marriage came when the latter had an affair with Marie-Anne Thébaud, a woman the couple had hired to look after their Switzerland property and became a close friend and personal assistant to Twain. The country music singer and her husband split in 2008, 14 years after tying the knot. 

When the "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" singer tried to talk to Thébaud about the situation, she denied the affair and changed her number. Twain discussed in a 2011 interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (via The Cut) that her former friend had lied to her face when the singer came to her in confidence speculating that something was off with Lange. "All Marie-Anne did through the whole thing was comfort me, telling me everything was fine," she revealed. "I believed her and I accepted it as being genuine."

Twain found a shoulder to cry on in Thébaud's husband Frédéric, which ultimately began their friendship. Their relationship later evolved into a romance, and the two tied the knot in Puerto Rico in 2011. On an episode of the "Armchair Expert" podcast, Twain revealed that her ex-husband and former BFF are still together over a decade later.

Her divorce led her into a deep depression

Shania Twain's road to happiness was full of pitfalls after learning the shocking news of her former husband's affair. In 2011 the artist admitted on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" that she had a hard time accepting the news to begin with when her future husband, Frédéric Thébaud, disclosed the information about their partners' rendezvous. "Of course, I didn't believe him and I thought for sure he was making it up. It was obviously just denial on my part," she recalled.

But even after accepting the horrible news, Twain had a long road ahead of her, experiencing a deep heartbreak and depression. "There were days I didn't really care if tomorrow came," she told AARP. "Survival is everything. I was in quicksand. I panicked, like everybody does, but I didn't surrender. I found a way out."

The singer eventually found her footing, with the help of her newfound love, Thébaud. She went on to launch her Las Vegas residency,"Still The One," in 2012, which ran for two years and was met with raving reviews. Despite losing her ex-husband and the difficult phase of her life that followed, Twain said that she felt lucky due to the outcome. "Everyone gets what they deserve," she explained on the "Armchair Expert" podcast. "I got what I deserve. I got the greatest man on the planet."

Twain performed at Coachella alongside Harry Styles

There's nothing like a Harry Styles and Shania Twain collaboration to spice up a Coachella set. Styles was the headliner for the popular musical festival in 2022, but fans were thrilled when the "Watermelon Sugar" crooner brought out the country music legend during his performance. The two sang Twain's hits, "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" and "You're Still The One," much to the delight of thousands of screaming fans. At the time, Twain had no idea what an impact it had on their fanbases. 

"I didn't realize the significance of that moment," she told Apple Music's Zane Lowe (via People). "I just saw it as a moment to get together with Harry, but I didn't see it as such a landmark moment ... It was such a wonderful surprise, everyone's reaction." The "Forever and for Always" singer added that many of Styles's fans were exposed to her music as children, and the songs still ring true today. "It's the Harries, his age group and even younger. Their moms had my music on, and they're in the backseat, and they know," she said. "At some point, they know every word by heart."

That's exactly what happened with Styles, who revealed to the country singer that he had been exposed to her music through his mother. "He was just really on his way up when I first met him," Twain recalled, adding that the two met backstage years earlier and exchanged contact info so Twain could call his mother on her birthday. "We're just very easy together, it's like we've known each other for a very long time," she said.

She posed topless to challenge her insecurities

With all the confidence Shania Twain exudes in her songs, music videos, and on-stage persona, it's hard to imagine that the artist has had a hard time accepting herself and her appearance. "I've been very shy about my body from a very young age ... to the point where I would not go to the beach in a bathing suit ... I would say probably really tortured by it from the age of 10," she opened up to Extra.

While many fans have viewed Twain as a sex symbol during her career, the title was not something that came naturally to her. Instead, she used her platform to challenge herself, like when she posed topless at the age of 57 with a shirt tied around her waist for her 2023 single "Waking Up Dreaming."

In an interview with Extra, she gushed: "It changed everything for me," adding, "I want to be able to stand and go 'Yes, I am a woman that is comfortable in her own skin.' It's not like I'm trying to show my nakedness to the world. I'm trying to show that the confidence in your own nakedness is necessary and with nothing else left to prove confidence is the only thing a queen really needs."

Twain's epic comeback

Three decades after Shania Twain released her first studio album, she continues to make waves in the business. After a long hiatus due to her Lyme disease diagnosis, Twain released her album "Now," her first record in 15 years and first without her ex-husband as a producer. The album was met with positive reviews, with many seeing it less as a breakup album and more of a full-circle moment, with songs about healing from her darkest moments. 

Twain released "Queen of Me" in 2023, an album in which she once again emphasized her ability to combine country and pop sounds effortlessly. The album received rave reviews, with several of the songs being about Twain taking ownership of her life and the decisions that led her to where she is. The singer is certainly keeping busy, announcing her Las Vegas residency, "Come On Over," in 2023, where fans can watch her perform her greatest hits beginning in 2024. 

Though her voice has somewhat changed — due to years of rehabilitation and surgery — her deeper and more textured vocals are still just as powerful as they were when she began her career. Multiple hit songs, world tours, and Sin City residencies later, Twain's fans can't help but notice that she doesn't appear to be looking any older either, as the singer's knock-out looks have yet to be defied even in her late 50s. "If I don't age like Shania Twain I'm canceled," one user wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

If you or anyone you know needs help with mental health, or has been a victim of sexual assault, contact the relevant resources below: