How Shania Twain Learned to Feel Beautiful After Tragedy and Self-Doubt

By Shania Twain
September 14, 2017

I did not feel beautiful as a child. I wasnít blessed with prettiness. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were poor and moved around a lot, or that my mother kept my hair short, but I was always mistaken for a boy. I wanted to wear pants and go hunting with my dad, while my two sisters wore dresses and were fair, blond, and a lot cuter.

Even in high school, when my body was developing and all the curves came in, I didnít get a sense of my femininity. I wasnít ready for the changes, and I didnít enjoy them. I didnít accept who I was until I was out of high school and starting to wear stage clothes. I started recognizing that, ďOh, Iím the girl in the band. Maybe I am supposed to wear makeup and style my hair.Ē

It took the pressure of entertainment life to make me accept my femininity. I didnít have a daily routine for beautifying until I was 21 and needed to wear long gowns, high heels, false eyelashes, and lots of makeup as a frontwoman. The dancers would give me high-heel-walking lessons during the day. It was hard and I would think, ďHow am I ever going to sing and wear high heels at the same time?Ē

A year later, my parents died in a car accident, and I became the mom overnight to my teenage siblings. The devastation made me want to give up my career altogether. I didnít think I had the stamina to move forward with it. Thankfully, a friend talked me through not quitting, and I was very lucky to get a recording contract.

By then, professional makeup artists, hairstylists, and wardrobe stylists started to come into play. It suddenly became enjoyable because I was getting to know my body and face better, and it was fun to try on clothes. I got into the groove of it and started to love it. I met my husband, who was also my producer, and things really took off by the time I was 30.

Since I was such a late bloomer, I think I liked the indulgence of getting dressed up. It was a new playground for meópicking the fabrics, colors, and images was a very creative process. It wasnít just about what to wear to go out on a Friday night; it was about becoming an artist.

A lot has changed since thenóIíve divorced and remarried, been diagnosed with Lyme disease, lost my singing voice, and had to rebuild my vocal cordsóbut even now, when Iím all dolled up, I feel as though Iím the same person onstage. Itís a mood change more than anything. The minute I walk out there, Iím with everyone, and weíre at this party all together. Thereís no separation between us.

I think that part of the excitement behind releasing this new album is getting to share everything that Iíve been through. The journey has been lifelong. There were many layers that had built up to this bottleneck, and in reviewing my whole life, which I did through writing my autobiography, I was taken back to the very beginning. It made me realize, ďWow, my divorce is actually not the worst thing thatís ever happened to me.Ē Itís terrible, but when I look at my whole life, itís just one stage that was difficult.

When I first finished writing most of the songs, the people around me were worried that I was dwelling on my own suffering. Their feedback was, ďYour fans are expecting confident, strong, supportive Shania. They need you.Ē But I have to be true to where I am in the moment, and this is what I need to express right now. Songwriting is my psychiatry session. I write and sing the lyrics to get to the other side. Itís how I get to know myself better and acknowledge the scars and look at them.

I think thereís a lot of strength in that. This is what I have to share with people, and Iím hoping it will be inspiring and encourage them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To remind them that lifeís about to get good, even when itís bad.

Now Iím excited, like, ďLetís do this already,Ē because making the album that I needed to make was the scariest commitment. Iím getting myself mentally and physically ready for the upcoming tour next yearóplaying tennis, meditating, doing a lot of walking, eating well. I feel physically energized after meditating, even if just for a few minutes. Itís a go-to for me.

Iíve also got some new catsuits for hitting the stage! Theyíre so comfortable, like pajamas. And with a one-piece you donít have to worry about the waistband moving; everything just seems to stay in place a little better. The hand-beaded one I wore for my shows in Las Vegas was my favorite so far. It was a custom piece by Marc Bouwer and I was part of the process, so it was a creative thing. I loved that one, and Iím excited to wear some new ones too. Iím so ready to share everything. Iím eager, actually. I canít wait.


Shania Twainís latest album, Now, is available for pre-order, well, you know, now.

For more stories like this, pick up the October issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Sept. 15.