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Shania Twain reveals how her tragic upbringing left her with a crippling fear

Born Eilleen Regina Edwards, the country singer grew up in the impoverished town of Timmins, Ontario

Faye James
Senior Editor
July 1, 2024
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In an emotional revelation, Shania Twain has opened up about her challenging childhood and the profound impact her mother had on her illustrious career. 

The 59-year-old singer, known for her powerful voice and empowering anthems, shared insights into her early years, marked by hardship and resilience.

Shania, whose real name is Eilleen Regina Edwards, grew up in the picturesque yet impoverished town of Timmins, Ontario, alongside her four siblings. 

Their mother, Sharon, and stepfather, Jerry Twain, struggled to make ends meet. Tragically, Jerry's abusive behavior cast a dark shadow over their lives. 

In a courageous disclosure back in 2018, the country singer revealed that Jerry had not only been violent towards Sharon but had also abused her. This dark chapter in her life came to a devastating climax when both her parents died in a car crash when she was just 22.

In a heartfelt interview on Dermot O'Leary's Reel Stories, Shania delved deeper into how these traumatic experiences shaped her fear of the stage. 

She recounted performing in bars filled with drunk men at her mother's insistence to earn "a few bucks" for the family. "My mother managed to get me into bars to sing for petty cash, and I could only go in after the bar closed, so that was from midnight," Shania shared with Dermot. 

Shania as a young teen© Instagram
Shania as a young teen

"I didn't enjoy it. I didn't love stinky, smoky bar rooms with drunk men fighting. It did make me really hate being in the spotlight. I had stage fright for a very long time."

Despite these unsettling experiences, Shania's mother had a vision. Music was Sharon's solace, and she dreamed that her daughter would become "the next Tanya Tucker." 

Shania with her parents that tragically died when she was 22© Instagram
Shania with her parents that tragically died when she was 22

Although young Shania didn't share this ambition, her mother's encouragement was unwavering. Sharon believed that music was Shania's ticket to a better life and the only way she could escape their dire circumstances.

Reflecting on this period, Shania acknowledged that while it impacted her deeply, she doesn't regret what she went through. "It was tough, but I don't regret what she did," she admitted. Her journey to overcoming stage fright was a long one, and it wasn't until she battled Lyme disease that she managed to conquer her fear and make a triumphant return to music.

Shania Twain in 2003 in casual jeans and T-shirt
Shania Twain in 2003 in casual jeans and T-shirt

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Shania discussed how her childhood traumas influenced her songwriting, particularly hits like Black Eyes, Blue Tears and Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

She explained, "One thing I avoided the most in my life was becoming my mother or being in her situation. I had to break that cycle. But when people hear [Black Eyes, Blue Tears], they may not think I lived that. You have a story, that's one thing. Then you put it into a three-minute commercial song and it's not just a story — it's a song. And my story was never part of a commercial career."

Shania Twain's confidence grew with the success of her career
Shania Twain's confidence grew with the success of her career

Growing up, Shania felt a deep-seated shame about being female, fearing that showing her body would make her vulnerable to exploitation. After years of hiding and missing out on the joy of being a woman, she finally embraced her femininity and wrote the iconic Man! I Feel Like a Woman! in 1997. The song became a powerful anthem of joy and empowerment, celebrating her journey to self-acceptance.

As she prepares to grace the stage at Glastonbury in the coveted legends slot, her story of resilience and triumph continues to inspire. 

The Canadian singer-songwriter is set to perform on the Pyramid Stage, following in the footsteps of legends like Johnny Cash and Diana Ross.

In an excited message posted on social media, Shania expressed her anticipation: "The legends slot at GLASTONBURY 2024 - Another jewel in my crown!! I feel so honoured and so excited about this one! Thinking about what to wear already and tell me, what should we sing together?! Let's make history with this ultimate dream performance!!"

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