What You Never Knew About Shania Twain

Shania Twain's dramatic, and often tragic, backstory became well-publicized from the moment she scored her first of many country number ones with "Any Man of Mine" back in 1995. There's the traumatic childhood in which she grew up with a depressive mother and often violent stepfather, the fatal car accident they both died in when the singer was just 22, and the responsibility of raising her three younger siblings single-handedly as a result.

And we also know all about the merry-go-round relationship drama that sounds like a storyline from an Aaron Spelling soap. The discovery that her husband of 17 years Mutt Lange was having an affair with her best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud, then falling in love with the other wounded party, Thiébaud's husband Frédéric, and the fact that both new couples went on to make it down the aisle — in separate ceremonies, of course.

But there are other things about the multi-million-selling Queen of Modern Country that she's largely kept under wraps over the years. From unlikely inspirations to eerie premonitions, here's a look at 14.

Shania Twain has nothing against Brad Pitt

"Okay, so you're Brad Pitt/That don't impress me much." It's one of the most iconic lyrics in late '90s pop. But what made Shania Twain single out the man twice crowned People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive? Well, after 20 years of keeping schtum, the country star finally revealed in 2017 that a series of controversial paparazzi photos were the inspiration.

In an interview with Billboard, Twain explained that the famous line from her hit "That Don't Impress Me Much" came about during a girls' night in baking cookies: "I was writing this album and there was a scandal of [Pitt] and Gwyneth [Paltrow] where there was naked photos of him. And this was like all the rage. I just thought 'I don't know what all the fuss is about.' I'm like, 'well that don't impress me much,' I mean what is all the fuss. We see people naked every day."

Twain clarified that she had nothing in particular against the "Seven" star, who later sued Playgirl for publishing the images in question without his consent. "It could have been any gorgeous guy," she added. The Canadian further proved there was no animosity three years later when she tweeted a celebratory message to Pitt on his 57th birthday which referenced the song he'd been immortalized in.

Shania Twain still refers to herself as Eilleen

Adopting a stage name to make yourself sound a little more glamorous is nothing new. Elton John was born Reg Dwight, for example. And Ginuwine was christened Elgin Baylor Lumpkin! So it's no surprise to learn that Shania Twain was originally known as Eilleen. It's a little more surprising, however, that after more than 30 years of performing under her more familiar moniker, she still sometimes refers to herself with her birth name.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2018, Twain also revealed that there is a notable difference between Eilleen and Shania. The former, who didn't start wearing high heels until she was well into her twenties, was and still is very much a tomboy: "I never got to the point where I would wear a bathing suit on the beach. I was always very, very shy of my body." The "Life's About to Get Good" singer, whose adopted name means "on my way" in the indigenous North American language Ojibwe, acknowledged that Eilleen was much less assertive when it came to men, too: "I was always very agreeable, always out to please my partner."

Interestingly, record company bosses had more of a problem with the Canadian's surname than her Christian one when she was starting out. The singer was actually encouraged to replace Twain with something that sounded a little more showbiz. 

Sean Penn played a part in Shania Twain's early career

You wouldn't expect one of Hollywood's most famously intense actors to have a love of country pop music. But in 1993, Sean Penn reached out to Shania Twain with an offer to direct her new video. The singer had only released one song at the time, "What Made You Say That," and admitted in her memoir "From This Moment On" she was baffled as to how the future Oscar winner had even heard of her.

Twain accepted the unlikely proposition and the pair worked together on second single "Dance With the One That Brought You." Sadly, as the Canadian herself expected at the time, the track "didn't amount to much commercially," and it would be another two years before she truly hit the big time.

However, Twain has nothing but fond memories of working with the "Milk" star, who not only helped her out professionally but financially, too: "One time when he was dropping me off at my hotel, this unassuming movie star pulled out a $100 bill and handed it to me. He didn't say anything, just gave it to me. I was still struggling to get by, because the meager advance from the record label was just enough to cover basic living costs ... To me, Sean came across as someone who cared about the underdog. It seemed that he listened more than he spoke but was not afraid to speak his mind. A real straight shooter."

Shania Twain's second Vegas residency was inspired by Britney Spears

In 2013, Britney Spears cemented her status as a pop legend when she launched a residency in Las Vegas. And one of the many fans who helped "Piece of Me" rake in nearly $138 million was Shania Twain. In fact, Spears proved to be an unlikely influence on the country hitmaker when it came to her very own Sin City extravaganza.

Speaking on "Home Now Radio," her show on Apple Music (via People), Twain revealed that she'd seen Spears on stage several times over the years. But it was her residency production that left the biggest impression: "She was initially in Zappos Theater where I ended up myself and I loved the room. I thought her show was great and I was motivated to get on that same stage, so her show inspired me a lot." Twain had first hit the Vegas stage at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2012 and returned seven years later for a second residency titled "Let's Go!"

This wasn't the first time that Spears and Twain's worlds had collided, though. In 2001, the latter penned the tune, "Don't Let Me Be the Last To Know," for the former's sophomore "Oops!... I Did It Again." In 2017, the Canadian told Fuse TV, "She was very sweet and it was a great experience just to get to know her on a really behind-the-scenes level, a little bit. And it was obviously an honor to have her record some of my songwriting."

Shania Twain still has beef with the other woman

More than a decade after discovering that her best friend Marie-Anne Thiébaud was having an affair with her husband Mutt Lange, and Shania Twain — entirely understandably — remains livid at such a betrayal. In fact, the Canadian still refuses to speak or even see her one-time confidante. "She's the last person on the planet I want to run into," the hitmaker told The Guardian in 2017.

Incredibly, Twain has somehow managed to avoid such an awkward encounter despite the fact there's less than a mile separating her and Thiébaud's homes. When asked why she didn't simply relocate, the "When" singer defiantly answered, "I just wasn't going to be pushed out. This is my home, this is my child's birthplace and I'm not going anywhere."

Twain has bumped into Thiébaud in her dreams ("I'm always cutting her hair or shaving it off"). And she's also made her feelings crystal clear in the recording studio. In fact, the apparently wholesome country star essentially out-cursed Lil Wayne while making 2017 comeback "Now": "There was one song I wrote about my cheating friend and there was a lot of f***s in there. I hated her, so that's the best word to use when you hate somebody." However, perhaps not wanting to scare off her audience, Twain left such expletive-laden tracks off the finished record.

Shania Twain has never given her son a birthday present

Shania Twain may well be one of the richest performers in country music with a reported net worth of $400 million. But that doesn't mean that son Eja was showered with the entire contents of Toys "R" Us every time he celebrated his birthday. In fact, the youngster didn't get any gifts from his parents at all. Well, apart from a home-made cake.

In a 2018 interview with Mirror, Twain explained that she wanted to avoid spoiling the child she shares with first husband Mutt Lange having grown up herself in entirely different circumstances: "It's all he's known. He expects it. I'd say, 'You know what you're getting from me for your birthday,' and he'd look forward to it."

The "Ka-Ching" singer also keeps things similarly low-key when it comes to the holiday season, restricting Eja's wish list to just three presents. And if they don't get used within a month then Twain donates them to charity. Of course, the Canadian still makes sure her son is always catered for when it comes to the essentials: "There's no point in pretending that we're without, though — if he needs a shirt, I'll get him a shirt. I'm not going to act poor if we're not poor. That's my approach and I'm just doing my best."

Shania Twain still suffers from stage fright

Shania Twain has hit the road for four major world tours and launched two residencies in the bright lights of Las Vegas during her glittering career. But she still gets the heebie-jeebies every time she's about to hit the stage.

It's a fear that appears to have stemmed from her childhood, as she explained during a 2017 appearance on "The Late Late Show." Indeed, the "I'm Gonna Getcha Good" singer admitted to host James Corden that she once got so nervous during a school solo that she peed herself in front of all her fellow students. Luckily, the quick-thinking Twain managed to cover her embarrassing accident up by spilling a nearby glass of water.

The multiple Grammy winner now has to stick to a strict pre-show routine to help calm her nerves, and presumably avoid any similar puddles. She told The Cut, "I don't like to be stressed when I go on stage. I need 20 minutes of silence. I'm not on the phone. Prior to that, I get dressed, get hair and makeup and go to the bathroom. You have to hydrate and time your last bathroom break because it's the last one you'll have for the next 97 minutes."

Shania Twain still has fond memories of Mutt Lange

Shania Twain might dream about shaving off his new wife's hair, but the Canadian claims that she still has fond memories of working with ex-husband Mutt Lange. While promoting the 25th anniversary re-release of her breakthrough album "The Woman In Me" in 2020, the country star was surprisingly effusive about the man who had an affair (and later married) her best friend.

Lange not only produced the record she was promoting but its follow-up "Come On Over," aka one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. And Twain was more than happy to give the hitmaker his due in a chat with CBC Radio: "We really played off each other. It was a good teamwork environment, and we had a lot of mutual respect for each other's ideas. He really nurtured my independent nature and he was humored by my attitude and thought I was quite funny with my directness. And we captured that in the records and in the songwriting."

Although Twain can still look back at her time in the studio with Lange warmly, there's still a frostiness between the pair outside it. When asked by The Guardian whether they still communicate, the "Forever and for Always" singer gave an unconvincing "Sure," before confirming they don't see each other socially anymore. She also later added that she'd "never have anything personal to do with him again."

Shania Twain's son is following in her footsteps

With one of the most successful female vocalists of all time for a mother and one of the most successful producers of all time for a father, it was perhaps always inevitable that Eja Twain would end up pursuing a music career. Just don't expect much in the way of boot-stomping country pop or fist-pumping stadium rock.

In an interview with Sounds Like Nashville, Shania Twain revealed that the son she shares with ex-husband Mutt Lange has quite the eclectic taste, ranging from EDM to Hans Zimmer: "There's a real broad spectrum in his life musically, so he makes all kinds of stuff and he orchestrates a lot of things. He loves to arrange music and write music. He's just on his own journey."

Shania is fully supportive of Eja's artistic endeavors, particularly for the fact that he's more interested in working behind the scenes rather than on stage: "I think he'll enjoy music more just being the creator of the music. It's just really taxing being a performer, being the person out in front, unless that's what he really wants. He just has a quiet confidence about him. He doesn't have that extrovert — you know everybody look at me — type of personality. I think it will suit him well to be the creator."

Shania Twain had an eerie premonition

Shania Twain famously lost both her mother Sharon and stepfather Jerry at the age of 21 in a horrific car crash 50 kilometers outside the Ontario township of Wawa, leaving the aspiring singer to raise her three younger siblings as a result. Rather eerily, the future Grammy winner had dreamed of a similar chain of events just months before the tragedy.

While appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011 for her first TV interview in five years, Twain revealed that she'd had a premonition in which her mom passed away and tasked the country star with looking after her other children: "It was weird. Maybe it was my own sense of the responsibility that I'd always taken in the family anyway."

The "You're Still the One" singer also spoke about how she had to deal with the harrowing inquest into their deaths: "I was responsible for dealing with the lawyers and the insurance companies, and I had to know all the awful details — how they died, every mark on their body. It was hard at the moment, but I was able to then work through what I knew, and then in the end, I could come to understand it. By not understanding and knowing the details, your imagination is left to run wild."

Shania Twain had a 'rugged' childhood

Shania Twain's childhood was as far removed from the glitz and glamor of the music industry as you could possibly get. As well as growing up with a depressive mother and abusive stepfather, the country singer also spent much of her youth doing strenuous manual labor in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, this was a part of growing up that she appeared to relish.

According to Taste of Country, Twain balanced her schoolwork with shifts on her stepfather's reforestation firm in Northern Ontario. She reportedly said, "I loved the feeling of being stranded. I'm not afraid of being in my own environment, being physical, working hard." That's a good job as the "Man! I Feel Like A Woman" singer apparently had to carry heavy trees across several miles of terrain every day — and without wearing any make-up or deodorant, too, she noted.

However, Twain's experiences as a quasi-lumberjack also helped to spark musical inspiration, too. She added, "It was a very rugged existence, but I was very creative and I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and a guitar and would just write songs."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Shania Twain found her reality show painful

In 2011, Shania Twain followed in the footsteps of fellow country music superstars The Judds when she became the subject of a reality show for Oprah Winfrey's OWN network. "Why Not?" was shot during a particular turbulent period for the "Party for Two" singer, which explains why she found it painful viewing.

Speaking to Maclean's in 2015 about the six-part documentary series, Twain remarked, "Yes. It was awful to watch. I did that when I was really suffering. It was a terrible time. All the things I had to go through to get here [have been] tough. I want to forget about it because it was a real rehabilitation." The country star was no doubt referring to the problems she suffered with her voice and the heartbreak of her dramatic divorce to Mutt Lange.

"Why Not?" wasn't exactly a laugh-a-minute for viewers either. The show saw Twain revisit the house she lived in during her abusive childhood, stop off at the graveyard site where her mother and stepfather are buried and offer advice to a group of siblings who had just become orphaned in tragic circumstances. "The magical misery tour" was how The Hollywood Reporter pithily described the series in its mixed review.

Shania Twain edits her own music videos

From her gender-bending Robert Palmer parody for "Man! I Feel Like A Woman" to the leopard print-clad, desert-hitchhiking antics of "That Don't Impress Me Much," Shania Twain has starred in some of the most iconic videos in country pop history. And it turns out she's hit the editing suite for most of them, too.

You wouldn't expect a star of Twain's stature to have the time or inclination to do all the dicing and splicing. But yes, the Canadian apparently likes nothing more than deciding which shots should be left in the final edit and which should hit the cutting room floor. In a 2020 chat with singer-songwriter and long-time fan Donna Missal for Interview, the Grammy winner advised, "I think you should be editing your own videos. Because if you already have the whole vision in mind, you're the only one that's going to know when you've achieved it."

And Twain's behind-the-scenes talents don't end there, either. The vocalist also revealed that she's always been responsible for her promo's art direction, particularly during her early days: "The first couple of videos, they were just very Walmart-y type clothes. I didn't want to spend the budget on clothes. I would take a shot, and then I would go look through the camera. It was a very slow process, but I needed to understand how the lighting worked, where the camera was going to go, what time of day I wanted it to be."

Shania Twain nearly died at birth

One of the more startling revelations Shania made in her 2011 memoir "From This Moment On" involved her traumatic birth. Indeed, doctors initially believed that her mom Sharon had delivered a stillborn daughter. "Except, miraculously, the baby girl is alive," the country star wrote. "Even more remarkable, she will have suffered no ill effects from the temporary lack of oxygen during the stressful delivery."

Of course, death was still a constant while Twain was growing up. As well as losing her parents in a devastating car accident aged just 22, she also lost a third of her relatives to suicide ("not an exaggeration," she told The Guardian) and several others to alcohol abuse.

It's perhaps little wonder, therefore, that the "Love Gets Me Every Time" singer developed a fear of dying before her time, telling Redbook in 2011, "The breakup of my marriage really brought all those worries to the forefront and reminded me that, hmm, you just never know what's around the next corner." It's also why she decided to put her life story to paper, adding, "It was important to me to have a legacy for my son ... When you are famous, it's even more likely that your child will get the wrong perspective on your life if you die prematurely. There are so many opinions about who you were."