The Tragic Life Of Country Music Icon: Shania Twain

Shania Twain is a Canadian born country music icon. She was born with music in her soul, and her incredible talent was evident at a very young age. She became a huge star, but the road to success hasn’t always been easy. Her parent’s divorce deeply affected the singer, and things only got worse after that. Shania spent time in shelters, witnessed her mother getting abused, and some nights, she went to bed hungry.

Shania Twain

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Despite all the setbacks, Twain saw them as steppingstones and made the best of every situation. As other devastating experiences happened throughout her life, music gave her solitude. It was like an escape mechanism for her heartbreaking reality. Once her music career took off, Shania’s dream finally came true. She has so much gratitude, always remembers where she comes from, and has an amazing quality that most people don’t have- she sees the glass as half full. This is Shania Twain’s sad life, and how she rose above the pain.

It’s a Girl

Shania Twain was brought into the world on August 28th, 1965, as Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. But her birth wasn’t so simple either. When she was born, there was a complication, and the doctors almost pronounced her dead.

Shania Twain is with Bo Derek and Rob Light posing near Shania’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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As we know, babies are typically born crying, which is a sign of breathing. Shania wasn’t crying, and her skin turned blue. The doctor was so nervous about the situation that he actually gave Shania’s mom a lit cigarette before breaking the bad news. Thankfully, it quickly became evident that the baby girl was alive.

Who’s Your Daddy?

When Shania was born, she was given the name Eilleen Regina Edwards; her life was pretty tough from the start. When she was just two years old, her parents Sharon and Clarence Edwards split up. She never saw her biological father growing up, and he didn’t keep in touch. She doesn’t acknowledge him much because he was never around, and she said that she had “never known him.”

Shania Twain and her mother

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Although she was young when her parents divorced, soon after, her mother Sharon married a guy named Jerry Twain, a member of the Ojibwa tribe. Jerry adopted Sharon’s three daughters, and four-year-old Eilleen became Eilleen Twain.

Other Side of the Story

Clarence Edwards has his own side of the story. According to him, he was never absent from his daughter’s lives. He claimed that he did, in fact, try to stay in touch with his three daughters, including Shania. He also revealed that he takes offense to his daughter’s disregard for him. Divorces can get messy, and Shania’s parents were certainly no exception.

Clarence Edwards and her stepmother, Shirley Caby

Shania’s father Clarence Edwards and her stepmother, Shirley Caby. Source: Pinterest

Edwards went on to explain that the only reason he got divorced was because Sharon was extremely possessive, but that wasn’t the worst part. According to Edwards’s version of events, Sharon was involved in an affair while they were still married.

Blended Family

After her mother married Jerry, they became a blended family. He adopted their girls and became their father figure. Shania’s mom had a son with Jerry named Mark, and they adopted Jerry’s nephew Darryl (after his mother passed away). The singer considers herself as half-native and not just because her stepdad adopted her and legally changed her name.

Shania Twain and her family

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Shania spent her childhood visiting the Matagami Reserve on weekends and learned how to track rabbits with her grandpa. Her stepfather’s tribe actually legally accepted her. The singer explained how she was raised by her dad, who’s a “full-blooded Indian.” She is currently still an official member of the Temagami First Notion.

The Struggle is Real

Shania Twain grew up in a small town in Ontario called Timmins. Her family had financial difficulties and often struggled to make ends meet. At school for lunch, Shania would normally eat a piece of bread spread with mayonnaise or mustard- otherwise known as a “poor man’s sandwich.” Unfortunately, things weren’t better at home.

Shania Twain in concert in 1998

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Her stepfather Jerry had a pretty bad violent streak. Shania and her sisters watched this man attack their mother on more than one occasion. Obviously, this can be traumatic for any child, but Shania had music to keep her sane. She was singing at age three, learned guitar at age eight, and began writing her own songs when she was ten.

God-Given Talent

Things were never easy at home, but her mother always tried. She saw her daughter’s talent from an extremely young age and didn’t want it to go to waste. She made many sacrifices so that her family can afford to send Shania to music lessons and gigs. Like any good mother, she wanted to watch her child embrace her God-given talent.

Shania Twain performing in 1998

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Sharon’s encouragement really helped motivate Shania to pursue music. She sang in clubs and community events as she was growing up. Occasionally, she got to show off her chops on the radio and television. It was clear that this girl is going to become a star.

A Tragic Twist of Events

When she turned 18, Twain was ready to take on the world and pursue a singing career in Toronto. Twain found some work, but like many other musicians, she needed to take on some odd jobs so that she could support herself. One of these jobs included McDonald’s, but she was working hard and doing whatever she needed to make it in the music industry.

Shania Twain performing in 1999

Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

But in 1987, tragedy strike. Shania’s life would never be the same again after her parents died in a car accident. Shania needed to make sure she can take care of her three younger siblings. She had a little sister, a half-brother, plus, Jerry’s nephew, to worry about.

Overcoming a Family Tragedy

After her parent’s heartbreaking death, Shania prioritized her family and returned to Timmins. There, she took a singing job as part of a Las Vegas-style show in Huntsville, Ontario, next to the Deerhurst resort. This wasn’t exactly her style, but it didn’t matter. She just needed a steady paycheck to support her family.

Shania Twain and her sister

Shania Twain with her sister. Photo by Broadimage / Shutterstock

But Shania Twain never gave up what she loved, and that was making her own music. Whenever she had a free moment, her favorite thing to do was write songs. Her demo made its way to Nashville, and she was subsequently signed to Polygram Record (now known as Mercury Nashville).

Becoming Shania Twain

The singer’s new record label certainly wanted her talent but didn’t love the name, Eilleen Twain. This is pretty common in the entertainment industry, and all she needed to do was change her name. When creating a stage name, she didn’t want to change her last name as respect for her adoptive father.

Shania Twain on a horse at the Colosseum in 2012

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After all, he did raise her, so she decided only to change her first name. In order to honor her stepdad, even more, she went the name Shania- an Ojibwe word that means “I’m on my way.” And that’s how she became Shania Twain. Unfortunately, her mom and stepdad never got to see her as Shania.

Please, Don’t Hurt Mommy!

Sadly, Shania didn’t have the most ideal home life. Her dad Jerry was an alcoholic, and as we mentioned-an abusive man. Shania was tremendously affected, but the way Jerry treated her mother. She has haunting memories of screaming and violent nights, where she tried to stop him from hurting her mom.

Shania Twain holding a copy of her book

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Twain mentioned one particular incident in her book. She explains how, after hitting her mom one night, Jerry repeatedly plunged her face in the toilet. The singer was only 11 at the time and hit Jerry with a chair in order to save her mother. His response was to punch her, but she fought back. She said: “Anger started to take over from all the other emotions that I would feel.”

The Sweet Escape

After dealing with the terror and abuse for years, Twain convinced her mom to run away. Sharon took her kids and fled Timmins. The family slept at a homeless shelter in Toronto, but the circumstances there weren’t much better. Shania remembers it as a “crowded, sweltering place.

Shania Twain performing in Miami wearing a flowing shiny light blue dress

Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

Needless to say, the shelter was brutal, but at least Sharon wasn’t getting hurt. But in 1981, she made the choice to take the family back to Timmins and to Jerry. They were gone for a little over a year, but Sharon wanted to give her kids a better life than what they were getting in the shelter.

She Still Loves Her Dad

Despite all the pain that Sharon and the children went through because of Jerry, Twain says that he is her dad, and she still loves him. I mean, he wasn’t her biological dad, but he was the only father she had ever known. Shania described how “He took us, children, in as his own. He worked hard for us; he took care of us the best he could.”

Shania Twain sitting on a stool performing with posters of her on the wall all around her

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Shania explained how at an extremely young age, she learned to take the bad with the good, and a kid, she always tried to focus on the good. What other option did she have? She generally had a good relationship with Jerry (when he was sober), and she continued to embrace his culture.

A Mother’s Love

Both Shania’s biological father and adoptive father made Shania feel unsafe and scared growing up. Despite how different they made her childhood, Twain was mostly saddened about her mother’s depression and isolationism. She knew her mom meant well and wanted to see her happy.

Shania Twain and Herman Jose on the Herman Jose show

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As a little girl, Shania thought about going to Children’s Aid to seek help. She ultimately decided not to go because she was worried that if she did, the family might split up for good. The singer wrote, “I just couldn’t bear that, so we all stayed together for better or for worse.” That shouldn’t be a decision that any child should worry about.

Her Escape Mechanism

The reason why Shania started writing music at first is pretty heartbreaking- It was an escape. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, writing music was her form of escapism- a much healthier way to deal with your emotions. Through the violence, stress, and fear, she found solace in songwriting.

Shania Twain at an awards show wearing a sparkly Toronto Maple Leafs shirt

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Writing music was a great distraction, and took the future Country star out of reality for a little while. It specifically helped her when she was hungry. Shania explained that singing was the only way to ease her hunger pangs when she didn’t have food. She was just a child dealing with so much.

Mama’s Song

As we mentioned, Shania was born with music in her DNA and began writing songs when she was ten. The first song she ever wrote was dedicated to her mom, and she titled it, “Mama Won’t You Come Out to Play? “Even back then, all she wanted was to see her mom happy.

Shania Twain at Home House Hotel in London in 2003

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At ten years old, Shania was too young to really understand what was going on, but what she did notice was that her mom was sad and lonely a lot of the time. The singer admitted that it was like “she didn’t have the courage to get out and face life.” She thought maybe writing her a song would cheer her up.

Paying the Bills

Since her home life wasn’t going great, Shania’s family was broke most of the time. Eight-year-old Shania had to carry the burden and do whatever she could to make things better. As a little girl, she couldn’t exactly go out and get a job, so she used her talent to make a few bucks.

Shania Twain with her hand to her ear getting the crowd hyped up at a performance

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On the weekends, she began singing country music at clubs. Sometimes, she would also perform at bars in the later hours of the night- after they stopped serving alcohol. She didn’t make much, but she brought home enough to cover a couple of bills. But more importantly, she realized how much she loved to sing.

Stage Fright

Shania was singing since she was three, and her mom always encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Considering the fact that she was performing to crowds at such a young age, it may be surprising to find out that the singer actually suffers from stage fright. She did what she had to do, but the singer admitted that she never felt comfortable in front of people.

Shania Twain is performing and high fiving the audience

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Like many of us, she began to feel even more uncomfortable during those awkward years when her body was changing. Other than singing, Shania loved to play sports, but running on the field started making her feel so self-conscious that she stopped.

Don’t Worry; It’s Just Water…

Shania’s stage fright wasn’t exactly mild and didn’t end when she grew up. When Twain got older, her stage fright was so extreme that she once wet herself when she was on stage, performing with some backup singers. Yes, it’s true. If you have ever been nervous, you know this might happen.

Shania Twain is performing in 2012

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Although she could have made a complete fool of herself, Shania has a quick mind. She spilled over a glass of water as it was happening. Somehow, nobody noticed what had actually happened. The singer for really lucky! That glass of water really saved her from what could have been a really embarrassing situation.

The Great Outdoors

While she was in high school, Twain started working at her dad’s reforestation business. Her job included carrying heavy branches for several miles. Shania absolutely loved working outdoors and really enjoyed nature- but it was far from glamorous. The only place the teenager could shower and wash off was in the lake, the same place where she had to wash her clothes.

Shania Twain at the Billboard Music Awards in a long strapless white dress

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She went through harder things in life, and Shania looked on the bright side. The singer revealed that the ruggedness of the experience did wonders for her creativity. “I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and guitar and would just write songs,” the singer said.

Musically Motivated

Through it all, Shania became incredibly serious about music. Singing and songwriting got her through so much, and it meant a lot to her. She sang for a local band called Longshot when she was in high school. The band would do covers of the most popular songs at the time. It was a fun experience for her.

Shania Twain in concert

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She even got the opportunity to tour Ontario with another band. Twain had to miss her high school prom because of her hectic schedule. She was even taking singing lessons from Ian Garrett, a Toronto based voice coach. She couldn’t afford to pay him, so instead, she cleaned his house out once in a while.

Meeting Her Music Mentors

One of the first essential people who notice Shania’s incredible talents was DJ Stan Campbell. He really believed in her, and he got the singer gigs to sing back up. Another person who took an interest in her was Mary Bailey, an Ontario country singer. Bailey became Twain’s manager and took her to Nashville.

Shania Twain at the CMT awards

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Bailey introduced Shania Twain to John Kim Bell, a conductor. They actually started a secret romance. After a short while, Bell managed to arrange for Twain to sing in a fundraiser in 1987 for a National Aboriginal Achievement.

Girls Just Wanna Rock’ n’ Roll

At first, Shania didn’t plan to be a country singer. This may come as a surprise, but the country icon’s dream was to be a rock star. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it had major consequences. The fact that Shania preferred rock music eventually led to a falling out between her and Mary Bailey (who were very close).

Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, and Faith Hill

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But after Twain’s amazing performance at the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, everything changed for the star. Bell felt the power in Twain’s country sound and suggested that she focus on that. She took his advice, and the rest is history. Country music changed forever.

Making Friends with Sean Penn

Shania’s first self-titled album did pretty well. It reached number 67 on the Billboard Country Chart. But the best part of her album release was that she caught the attention of some important people in the industry: Sean Penn, the actor, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the legendary producer.

Shania Twain with Mutt Lange in 2003

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Sean Penn directed the video for her song, “Dance with the One That Brought you.” Plus, he wanted to ease the stress of the struggling songwriter and gave her $100 to get her through tough times. It was before her album took off, so that money really helped her a lot. She admitted the truth years later, saying that she was “embarrassed to receive a handout like that.”

Bare Devil!

When Shania was starting off her career, the industry was very different than it is now, and country music was no exception. Fashion and style trends were changing, but some things were unacceptable to wear. Especially if you are a celebrity, with a young audience.

Shania Twain in a white and tan outfit standing with her arms out

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That’s one thing that hasn’t changed- situations are worse when they involve celebrities. That’s why even Shania Twain managed to get some criticism after her first single, “What Made you Say That” dropped. When the country music fans saw the video, the country singer showed her bare midriff! How dare she! At the time, this was considered scandalous.

Star-Struck Moment

The biggest game-changer in Shania’s career was when she was introduced to the renowned rock producer, Mutt Lange. Lange has a pretty impressive resume. Throughout his long career, he worked with performers like AC/DC and Deff Leppard. That’s why when he called Shania Twain personally she was shocked!

Mutt Lange

Source: Flickr

The singer was completely blown away when the producer suggested a songwriting collaboration. It was like all her dreams were coming true, but she couldn’t believe it. He saw a talent in her, and it sparked a significant relationship that ultimately changed both of their lives.

Mixing Business and Pleasure

Shania Twain met Lange in 1993 so that they can work on some music together. What they didn’t expect was for their professional relationship to blossom into a full-blown romance! After six passionate months together, the pair tied the knot in December of that year.

Shania Twain and Mutt Lange at their wedding

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The beautiful ceremony took place in Deerhurst, Ontario. Not long after, the pair went right back to work. Twain described both of them as “workaholics,” but it all paid off. In February 1995, “The Woman in Me” was released. The love and effort that went into it is evident, and the album was a major success.

Sky Rocketing Success

After the success of “The Woman in Me,” Shania Twain was a rising star. The singer began making television appearances, performing at international shows, and even won a Grammy. Twain made a subsequent album titled “Come on Over,” also with the help of her husband.

Shania Twain holding two Grammy Awards in 1999

Photo by BEI / Shutterstock

“Come On Over” was even more successful than her previous album. She managed to sell over 40 million copies, which made it the “biggest-selling album of all time by a female musician.” Now that’s impressive. Plus, it won Shania four more Grammies. If that wasn’t enough, the singer started to plan her first international tour because she was loved in Europe.

It’s a Boy

Shania Twain went through a lot of changes in her life, and in 2001, her life changed once again. Thankfully, this time it changed for a wonderful reason- Twain became a mother. She had a baby boy and named him Eja; she chose to step out of the spotlight for a little while.

Shania Twain and Eja as a baby outside in the snow

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Twain’s number one priority was her son, and she thought it would be better to raise him away from the cameras and pressures of fame. She and Matt Lange moved to a Swiss chateau to live a quieter and simpler life. Twain also really wanted her son to be completely bilingual, so Eja’s first language is French.

Back to Work

After taking a year off, the couple finally returned to the studio. Their new album was also impressive. It may not have been as incredibly successful as the previous one, but it still did amazing and was a smash hit in Europe. Twain reached her musical dreams, she had a loving family, and she couldn’t be happier… or so it seems.

Shania Twain at the CMT Music Awards

Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

Twain followed up that record with a Greatest Hits collection and released some tracks afterward. In 2007, her duet with Anne Murray was the last song she and Matt Lange ever worked on together. They made musical magic together, but the reason was heartbreaking.

Her Best Friend is a Backstabber

As it turned out, Lange was betraying Twain for years. It’s not uncommon for couples (especially in the industry) to cheat, but Lange seemed to have a beautiful life with Twain. It’s bad enough that he was having an affair, but he didn’t just sleep with anyone. The most devastating part about the situation is that he was seeing his wife’s best friend, Marie-Anne.

Shania Twain and Marie-Anne

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Twain was starting to feel like something was off, so she confided in her friend. Marie-Anne basically told her that she was being “delusional.” Clearly, Twain was shocked and heartbroken at the betrayal. Marie-Anne is clearly a terrible friend to have. There are some lines you just don’t cross.

Life After Love

Shania Twain confessed the pain she felt and her state of mind when she and Lange separated in her autobiography titled, From This Moment On. We all know what heartbreak feels like, and it’s never fun. Shania revealed that in her darkest moments, she wanted to die. Thankfully, she held on.

Shania Twain and Eja out and about

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Her love for her son Eja kept her going, along with the traumatic memories from her past. The singer wrote: “When my parents died, I experienced a much deeper grief… I survived that, and I don’t want to give this so much credit.” Shania remained strong and got through it just like she got through everything else.

Paying it Forward

Although she made it to stardom, Shania never forgot where she came from. The memories from her past stayed with her throughout her life and career, but once again, she tried to do some good with it. Because of the difficulties she and her siblings went through, she started an organization in 2010.

Shania Twain with a child wearing a Shania Kids Can t-shirt

Photo by Denise Truscello

The organization is called “Shania Can,” and its purpose is to help children who come from low-income families. Shania hasn’t forgotten about the days that she went to school hungry, so the organization provides schools with nutritional supplies and recreational equipment. They also help these kids get access to music lessons. That way, they can still follow their dreams, even if they don’t come from much money.

Finding Love Again

Shania Twain found love again with a very unexpected man: Marie-Anne’s ex-husband Fredric Thiebaud. As it turns out, Marie-Anne was married too- a big surprise. Her husband was the one who found out that she was cheating and not just with anyone… with Matt Lange. It didn’t take long for him to reveal the truth to Twain.

Shania Twain and Frederic Thiebaud at their wedding day

Photo by Robert Evans / RollingStone

After discovering the news, Twain and Thiebaud seemed to bond over their mutual heartbreak before falling in love with each other. in 2011, the pair got married. Shania says that he is “still the one.” He does romantic things for her, like decorating her plate with flowers. But most importantly, he treats her with kindness.

It Was Worse Than She Thought

After such a stressful patch, Twain finally felt happy with Fredrick. She feels a deep connection to her new husband but would “never choose for her son’s family to be broken.” Twain believes that families should stay together and could stand to be around Lange for the sake of Eja.

Shania Twain and Frederic Thiebaud

Shania Twain and Frederic Thiebaud. Photo by KCR / Shutterstock

But then, Twain made another horrible discovery. After her divorce, she noticed that she was having trouble singing. Initially, she thought it was something psychological- maybe the stress from the separation. However, she found out that her vocal cord paralysis was due to a scarier reason- Lyme disease. As if she hasn’t been through enough!

Could have been Worse…

Like everything that comes Shania’s Twain’s way, she tries to stay positive and feels lucky. She knows that Lyme disease can be much worse and cause more severe symptoms than losing her voice. But if there is one thing we know about this girl and that she doesn’t give up. Music means way too much to her.

Shania Twain and Frederic Thiebaud

Shania Twain and Frederic Thiebaud. Photo by Broadimage / Shutterstock

After a laryngoplasty, lengthy vocal warmups, and physical therapy, she finally started singing again. The singer expressed: “I was very scared for a while that I wouldn’t sing again, ever.” Thank goodness she got through it. Shania Twain is proof that we can do whatever we set our minds to.

Green and Clean

Shania Twain is clearly a stunning woman with a beautiful figure; you may be wondering how she maintains her good looks. Well, the reason is simple. She pays attention to everything she puts into her body. For years the singer has been living on a vegetarian diet.

Shania Twain

Photo by Ken McKay / Shutterstock

Her clean diet includes a ton of leafy greens, nuts, and unprocessed food. Twain also tries to avoid carbs. The thing about Shania’s vegetarianism is that she doesn’t push her opinions on anyone else and considers what she eats a “personal choice.” That’s a pretty refreshing attitude because let’s face it… a lot of vegetarians tend to be preachers.

Deep, Dark Music

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Shania’s first album after her divorce was extremely deep and personal. The singer even prepared her fans, saying that the first cut would shock them. The songs were originally (and understandably) so “vitriolic” and spiteful that ultimately, they couldn’t even be on the album.

Shania Twain holding a Grammy Award in 1996

Photo by BEI / Shutterstock

It makes perfect sense. Music artists pour their emotions into their work, and she was feeling a lot. But still, Shania Twain kept it classy and toned down her feelings before she shared her new music with the world. Honestly, I would have loved to hear the first version of songs that didn’t make it on the album.

Animal Lover

We already mentioned that Shania loved to write music in the great outdoors. She found that nature really sparked her creativity. Well, she also likes to listen to music in nature. When she was 12, Shania’s friend let her ride her mare, and the singer discovered her love for horses.

Shania Twain with dog, Melody, in 2019

Photo by KCR / Shutterstock

Another thing she realized was that her favorite place to listen to music is in a horse barn. I should try that. Twain’s love for animals is not limited to horses; she also loves dogs. She has two canines of her own and feels like they are really part of the family. The reason she chose to get two dogs is so that one won’t get lonely if she has to travel for work.

Memory From the Past

As we know, the singer didn’t have much money growing up, and one time, when she was about 12 or 13 years old, she didn’t have winter clothes to wear to school. When everyone went to play outside on the cold winter days, she asked her music teacher if she could stay inside and practice.

Shania Twain at the 1996 Blockbuster Awards

Photo by BEI / Shutterstock

Shania never told her teacher the real reason she wanted to stay inside. She didn’t want people to feel bad for her and turn it into a big deal. She has happy memories from her music room and music teacher. While describing it, she said: “It was like a refuge.”