The real-life tragic story of Shania Twain

The real-life tragic story of Shania Twain

Date: 12 May 2017 10:28

She grew up in poverty

Twain grew up in poverty. According to a Rolling Stone interview, Twain recalled going to school hungry on multiple occasions and being jealous of her classmates who had apples and roast-beef sandwiches for lunch while she only had slices of bread with mayo or mustard. "I don't look at it as a bad thing at all," she told the magazine. "I don't regret my childhood. Learning to make mustard sandwiches was something just to get me through the embarrassment, to help me avoid humiliation." She never got the courage to ask friends for food. "I would certainly never have humiliated myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, 'You know, I'm hungry. Can I have that apple that you're not going to eat?'" she told ABC of her childhood. "I didn't have the courage to do that."

She also claims to have only feared that her teachers would discover how bad off her family was and she'd be taken away. To this day, she doesn't look down on her parents and particularly her stepfather, Jerry Twain, who was in and out of work. "It was a pride thing," she told Rolling Stone. "I respect him for that, and I don't feel bad for myself, even for a second."

Twain took it upon herself to help kids who suffer from the same experiences she did. In 2014, she launched Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation. It's a program that identifies kids in need for various reasons and provides discreet assistance, according to the organization's website. The charity also provides children with lunches, field trip expenses, moral support, hygiene needs, clothing and other educational needs such as homework assistance.

Her stepfather was abusive

For Twain, life wasn't easy by any means for her and her four siblings. In a riveting interview with ABC in 2011, Twain shared that she was traumatized by things she witnessed in her childhood and that she was abused by her stepfather, Jerry Twain. But she wasn't the only person to experience her stepfather's wrath, Twain's own mother Sharon took on the brunt. "[It was] overwhelming for any child to never know what to expect from one day to the next," Twain said. "It could happen anytime. But also you don't know if they're going to survive it." She recalled one particular moment where Jerry nearly drowned her mother in a toilet bowl. "I thought he'd killed her," Twain said. "I really thought she was drowned, or dead, or that he had just smashed her head in and she was never going to wake up. She looked dead. She was unconscious, she was limp, hanging from his… he had her hair in his hands."

Twain said she went into shock at the thought of her mother dying. "Also, through the humiliation of how I thought she had been killed, by drowning in a toilet seat," she added noting her parents bickered and fought over financial problems. "It was very, very obviously very hard to take."

But the abuse left Twain confused for multiple reasons. She had both love and fear for her father. "It was the Jekyll and Hyde in him that was the greatest torture," she said. "I loved him and I respected so much what he did for us, being the hard worker, he set a great example. So I'm still left confused. I'm baffled by all of that, I really am."

She had a strained relationship with her mother

Twain also told Rolling Stone that her mother battled depression and sometimes didn't get out of bed. The years of abuse and struggling to make ends meet seemingly took a toll on Sharon from time to time. Witnessing the turmoil as a young kid, Twain penned her first song about her mother. She named it "Mama Won't You Come Out to Play," Twain told Good Morning America. "My mother was always… very isolating of herself," Twain said. "I don't still really understand why. She's not alive anymore for me to ask her. I wish I could, but she was always that person that was watching life happen from inside through a window."

Twain somehow hoped the song would break through to her mother saying, "My mother was sad a lot of the time and really just didn't have the courage to get out and face life, and so that's why I wrote that song inviting my own mother to come out and play."

Despite the ups and downs in their family, Sharon fully supported her daughter's ambition career in music. Twain says without her support, she never would have taken those steps to make it happen. "I wouldn't have done it by myself,' The Grammy winner explained. "I would have shied away from it. I would have shied away from my fears. I would have backed off from my fear of being the center of attention, 'cause it's really not something I'm comfortable with."

Both of her parents were killed in a car crash

Tragedy would strike Twain once again on November 1, 1987. It's the day her parents Jerry and Sharon Twain were killed in a car accident, according to the Vh1 series Behind the Music. As the story goes, the couple was heading to a job site when a truck carrying timber crossed into their lane and collided with them head on.

"When you hit an emotional bottom like that and come face to face with the fragility of life and how fleeting it can be, then you realize nothing else matters," Twain said. "Your priorities completely change." Faced with a crisis, Twain stepped up to the plate to care for her two teenage brothers and sister. Twain would be forced to leave behind a growing music career to tend to her siblings as her two other sisters were not able to help. "I didn't see music fitting in anymore," she said. "Because in order to fix this, broken thing, there is no time for music. I'm going to have kids now… I was overwhelmed."

Twain told the CBC it was a turning point in her life that matured her. "[It] brought me up to where I should have been in the first place at that age," Twain said. "I didn't raise them, they moved in with me for a couple of years after my parents died. We kind of all bunked together, took care of each other… I learned a lot from it. I matured a lot from it."

Her husband cheated with her best friend

Marriage can be a beautiful thing, but when it crumbles and fails due to betrayal, it can scorn any person. Just ask Twain, whose 17-year marriage to Robert "Mutt" Lange began to unravel in 2008 after he confessed to cheating and falling in love with Twain's best friend and personal assistant Marie-Anne Theibaud. But the break up was deeper than love, Lange had a hand in producing many of Twain's music hits and is also the father of her only son, Eja Lange.

"I didn't want to live," Twain told Oprah Winfrey in 2011 about the devastating break up, according to People. Despite the drama, Twain says the experience was "a very positive thing" and that she "needed the wake-up." After the affair went down, Twain wrote her former friend Marie-Anne to ask why she stole her husband. "Why are you torturing me? Let it go, please," she asked in the letter Twain recalled. "Find love somewhere else from someone else… I know it was pathetic. But we all have pathetic moments. No one is above this type of low."

Twain even once took it a step further by confronting the woman face to face, according to the Daily Mail. But nerves ruined the moment. "I had a total panic attack," Twain said. "I just told her that she was a bad person — that's all I could get out! When I left her, I thought, 'You're such a wimp, you coward!'"

Years later, Twain can have fun over the topic despite the mountains of heartache it caused her. While on Watch What Happens Live (via Us Weekly) in 2015, she played a rousing round of Plead the Fifth. When host Andy Cohen asked what she would say to her ex-husband if she ever ran into him again, Twain quickly quipped, "I wish I'd never met you." The pair's divorce was finalized in 2010.

She married her best friend's ex-husband

Through her devastating break up, only one person could relate to the pain Twain was experiencing. It would be Marie-Anne Theibaud's own husband, Frederic Theibaud, who she left behind. Through the drama, the pair would bond and eventually form an unexpected romance. In 2009, just over a year after her marriage fell apart, Twain let fans know through her own personal blog that her life was beginning to take shape once again.

According to People, Twain called Frederic "a dear friend and true gentleman" before describing their long adventures together. "[He] has been the most constant companion and support for both Eja and I. And having gone through the suffering of his family splitting apart at the same time and under the same extreme circumstances, he understands me better than anyone… We leaned on one another through the ups and downs, taking turns holding each other up. We've become stronger and closer through it all, as have our children, Eja and Johanna, Fred's 8-year-old daughter."

In 2011, Twain and her new man would make their love official. "They were married at sunset in Rincon, Puerto Rico, in front of 40 of their closest family and friends," a rep for the country star told People. Although few details about the ceremony are known, she hasn't been shy in expressing her love for Frederic. "Talking about love," Twain wrote in a short letter to fans. "I am excited to share some personal news with you; I'm in love! Frederic Nicolas Thiebaud has been a true gift to me as a compassionate, understanding friend and over time, an amazing love has blossomed from this precious friendship."

She suffers from dysphonia

While Twain lost a husband and best friend, she also lost something just as important — her voice. That sweet sounding country tone millions of fans had grown to love was in jeopardy after she was diagnosed with dysphonia. It's a condition that causes muscles to squeeze the voice, according to Billboard. "My fears and anxieties throughout my whole life have been slowly squeezing my voice," Twain told Oprah Winfrey in a 2011 interview. "I was losing it slowly and progressively."

While discussing the matter in depth, Twain told Entertainment Weekly that her condition was depressing. "I really believed that I would never sing again," Twain said. "I was convinced, because for a long time I just couldn't get it out. It wasn't my vocal cords, which was very frustrating—if it was a straight ahead problem I could just have an operation for, then I would have done it and dealt with it and got back to singing."

The process of getting back into singing condition was long and hard. She compared the journey to an athlete going to rehab for an injury. "I had to learn how to use my voice again," she said. "It was all there, but I had to learn how to use the tools all over again from scratch, and it was very frustrating."

Talking with Rolling Stone, Twain says today her voice is different from years prior. In fact, it's deeper. "I'm a different singer now," she said. "There was a lot of coming to terms with that. It's been one of the obstacles in my life I've just had to learn to live with."

She faced a stalker for years

Becoming a mega celebrity isn't always easy. Sometimes fans become crazed or even obsessed. In 2011, Twain's longtime stalker Giovannia Palumbo pled guilty to three counts of failure to comply with a court order and criminal harassment, reports the Daily Mail. During the trial both Twain and Palumbo took the stand to explain their points of view.

During court proceedings, it was revealed that Palumbo sent numerous letters to the star, visited her family's residence without invitation, attended Twain's grandmother's funeral and was arrested at an awards ceremony for attempting to deliver a letter. "I'm torn emotionally because I have compassion for anybody who's reaching out in need — fans often do that," she said during cross examination. "I still have the fear and anxiety of being contacted in the future by Mr. Palumbo. And I do want it to stop."

Palumbo originally pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed his plea after hearing how emotionally upset Twain had become over the years. "My client (thought), 'I have made her afraid of me, and it's reasonable, her fears are reasonable,'" his lawyer told the court. "He's devastated that she's afraid. He never intended for her to fear at all – the absolute opposite. He loves her."

According to the New York Daily News, Palumbo was sentenced to three-years probation and was ordered to stay at least half a mile away from Twain, her family and team of workers. In addition to continuing his counseling, he isn't allowed to contact Twain anymore.

She's no longer touring

In early 2015, Twain announced she was going on tour. It would be her first venture on the road seeing fans face-to-face in 11 years. But as exciting as the news was, it was also bittersweet. "This is going to be a big tour for me because it's going to be my last," Twain revealed on Good Morning America (via People). "This is my last tour. I'm going to make the most of it. Let's put it that way… I just really want to go out with a bang."

News of the tour came right after a very successful Las Vegas residency. But as the tour progressed around the nation, it hit a big bump in the road. In the fall of 2015, Twain was forced to cancel several shows of her final tour due to a respiratory infection. "Shania Twain's doctors have advised her to rest for several days after she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection," read a statement from the singer that undoubtedly pissed off fans. To make matters worse, the missed dates were not rescheduled, according to People. "Shania Twain apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause her fans and greatly appreciates their understanding," continued a message from her team.

She's plotting a 2017 comeback

After a long time away from the recording studio, Twain is returning with new music. This spring will mark 15 long years since she's put out an album. It also marks the first time she's created music without her ex-husband, who had such a hand in developing her sound. She tells Rolling Stone she wrote the songs for her upcoming album herself. "It needed to be really pure and my own story and my own emotional journey," she said. "I was now alone all of a sudden, and I didn't want to shy away from it. And that's not a collaborative thing; it's a very personal thing." She's also instructed all producers to forget her past songs and help create a new direction. "I didn't want it to be related to Mutt's productions at all," she demanded. "I wanted a more organic approach. I was reflecting on the darkness."

The darkness she speaks of will obviously be the focal point and she'll touch her on ex-husband's infidelity. The song "Who's Gonna Be Your Girl" is a ballad about the end of her lengthy marriage. "It's about feeling unappreciated and knowing that you are secondary," Twain explained. "Having to live with someone that has different priorities and accepting that you're not the most important thing in a person's life."

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