Shania Twain is one of the most recognizable faces of pop country history. With over 100 million records sold, Twain is one of the most successful musical artists of all time. All of this success and monster hits like "Man! I Feel Like A Woman," and "You're Still The One," can make it hard to believe that Shania Twain's life has been full of dark and tragic moments. Like fellow country star Reba McEntire, she used the tragedy in her life to fuel her music and ambitions.
Twain has shown an incredible amount of strength as she's navigated all of the curve balls that life has thrown at her, from a cheating husband to an abusive father. The well-loved country singer's musical career has spanned several decades, and she has won a total of 5 Grammy's throughout her career.
Through all of her ups and downs, Shania Twain has used music to pull herself through. She's just had a few more tragedies to get through in life than most of us.
Shania's Stepfather Was Physically And Verbally Abusive
Twain has described her stepfather, Jerry Twain, both positively and negatively in interviews throughout the years. He adopted her and her two sisters when he married their mother. Shania was only four and always called him "Dad." She was very fond of him, and has said that she was always very confused by his "Jekyll and Hyde" personality.
"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."
Although she credits him for her hard-working nature and says he taught her to be a good person, he was verbally abusive to her throughout her childhood and physically abusive to her mother. She also has said that Jerry was sexually abusive towards her, and would mutter lewd comments to her and fondle her while she was in bed. This is one of the reasons Shania convinced her mother to leave Jerry and live in a Toronto shelter.
At One Point, The Domestic Abuse Got So Bad She Thought Her Stepfather Had Killed Her Mother
At some point when Shania was growing up, she was certain she had witnessed her mother's death. Her stepfather had shoved Sharon Twain's head into a toilet; she was unconscious and "looked dead." Shania later described her emotions during that event, and how in the moment she believed that she had just witnessed her mother's death.
"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, you know, her, he had her hair in his hands."
What made things worse for young Shania was how undignified dying by being thrown into a toilet seemed.
"Also, through the humiliation of how I thought she had been killed, by drowning in a toilet seat... It was very, very obviously very hard to take."
- Photo: Shania Twain Vevo / Youtube
Her Husband Cheated On Her With Her Best Friend
Shania Twain's first husband was her producer and musical partner, Robert "Mutt" Lange. They were married for 14 years before their ugly divorce, living abroad in Switzerland with their young son Eja.
Twain accused Lange of having an affair with her best friend, Mary-Anne Thiebaud, who was also Lange's interpreter and assistant. Both Lange and Thiebaud repeatedly denied that the affair had ever happened, so it was incredibly destructive to Twain when her suspicions were confirmed. She found out about it the day after Lange had asked Twain for a divorce from Frederic Thiebaud, Marie's husband.
Twain went as far as to send Thiebaud a heart-wrenching email, begging for him back from Thiebaud, "I am dying, and I can't take it any more. This is killing me. Have mercy."
Twain and Lange separated in 2008 and were divorced in 2010. In a strange twist, Twain and Frederic found a sort of solace in each other and became a couple once their former partners' affair was revealed.
She Had To Sing In Bars At 8 Years Old To Help Her Family Pay The Bills
In order to help her struggling parents pay the bills, Shania began performing in bars when she was eight. She came onstage after last call - the bars were technically closed, but she was allowed to play for the stragglers before they went home (not exactly a legal thing for a kid to do).
She usually made around $20 or $50 depending on the night, even though she generally hated the bars. They were smokey and full of "slobbering" drunken men, and performing from midnight to 2am could not have been easy for an eight-year-old.
Her Parents Died In A Car Crash, Leaving 21-Year-Old Shania To Care For Her Three Younger Siblings
When Shania was 21 years old, her music career was beginning to take off. Unfortunately, a family tragedy changed everything. Shania's mother and stepfather were killed in a car crash, and she left her budding career behind to take care of her three teenaged siblings.
She was able to keep singing, however - because she had to. To support her family, she got a regular gig singing show tunes in a "Las Vegas-style show" in a nearby town.
She Grew Up In Poverty, Occasionally Taking "Poor Man's Sandwiches" To School
A "poor man's sandwich" is essentially two pieces of bread with nothing but mustard or mayonnaise in between. Her family struggled financially, so sometimes that was the only food she took to school. She was too proud to ask other children for food, even though hunger made it hard for her to concentrate in class. Twain also did not want to bring up her lack of food, fearing that it would lead her teachers to call child services, since it seemed like her parents could not provide for her.