Since her rise in the 90s, Shania Twain has become one of the most recognisable and iconic figures in music, reaching heights few other artists in history have seen before and will ever see. Hailed the “Queen of Country Pop”, Twain isn’t only the best-selling female country artist of all time but one of the best-selling artists in history, and her empowering and genre-defying legacy is celebrated in Netflix’s new documentary Shania Twain: Not Just A Girl.
From her harsh upbringing to her bizarre divorce, and all the record-breaking career milestones in between, here are 10 things we learned from Not Just A Girl.
1. Shania Twain was inspired by Dolly Parton
Maybe not surprisingly, Twain revealed that when she was younger she listened to a lot of Dolly Parton and resonated with her tracks, particularly Parton’s 1968 ‘Coat of Many Colours’ which shares her upbringing in poverty. “Dolly Parton was a big influence on me,” she said. “She had lived a life that was very interesting, you know, grew up in a little shack, with a bunch of kids, not a lot of money. I was fascinated by her story and I related and thought, ‘well, if she came from all the way there and ended up all the way over there, I guess it’s possible. Maybe I have a shot.'”
2. She had a difficult upbringing
Growing up in the mining town of Timmins, Ontario in Canada with her two stepbrothers and two sisters, Twain revealed her childhood was often spent struggling financially. “There was always a problem paying electric bills, the rent, always a problem buying groceries, so it was just this struggle all the time,” she said. She also briefly mentioned the violence within her home. “Music was my way of escaping it.”
3. She lost both her parents and raised her younger siblings
When she was just 22, Twain’s parents died in a car crash suddenly, leaving her to raise her three younger siblings on her own. The grief was enormous, and Twain had no idea what to do. She considered giving up her singing dream and getting a real job with a stable pay to look after her family but found a regular live gig at a resort nearby that paid better. “It turned out that live performing was going to pay better, even at this level, at that little level, than working a regular day job,” she said. “It was pretty decent paying. I was able to support my brothers. I was able to make enough money to put food on the table singing at this resort.”
4. She started performing in bars when she was just 8 years old
According to Twain, her mum would sneak the two out in the middle of the night when she was younger and take her to perform in bars. Because she was only 8 at the time, she’d only be allowed to play once the bar stopped serving alcohol and there were only a few people left, meaning she’d perform until the early hours of the morning and continue to go to school. While she didn’t always like heading to the bars, Twain credits the experience for prepping her for a worldwide stage.
5. The beginning of her iconic partnership with Mutt Lange
After the video for her debut single ‘What Made You Say That’ dropped in 1993, igniting the sexy and feminist themes that would continue throughout her entire career, Twain received a call from esteemed producer Mutt Lange wanting to collaborate. Lange, who is famously known for his work with AC/DC, Def Leppard, Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and plenty more, saw the fire in Twain and wanted to bring his pop rock elements to her work. Allowing Twain to write her own songs and have her fair share of collaborative input, the two went on to create two of the biggest albums not only of her career but of all time, The Woman In Me and Come On Over, as well as fall in love and get married.
6. The end of her iconic partnership with Mutt Lange
In 2008, after 14 years of marriage, Twain learned that Lange had been having an affair with her best friend Marie-Anne Thébaud. The pair would then divorce two years later in 2010 and in the doc, Twain likened it to the loss of her parents. “It was like a death,” she said. “Losing Mutt was a permanent end to so many facets of my life. It took a long time to be ready to write and record again.” But there’s a happy albeit bizarre ending; in 2011 Twain married Frédéric Thébaud, the ex-husband of Marie-Anne, and both new couples remain together today.
7. Her struggle with Lyme disease
In 2003 when she was horseback riding, Twain was bitten by a tick that was infected with Lyme disease, setting the star on a long-term health journey. “My symptoms were quite scary because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy. I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was gonna fall off the stage, and the stage was quite high. So I was staying far from the edge, I was adjusting what I was doing. Then I was having these very, very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly, like every minute or every 30 seconds.” Eventually she found a way to manage her disease, but she states her voice was never the same again.
8. Come On Over Charted 12 Hit Singles
Her 1997 third studio album Come On Over had 12 out of its 16 tracks hit the top of the charts and become singles and went on to sell 40 million copies, making it the best-selling album of all time for a female artist. After the success of The Woman In Me, Twain wanted to keep the momentum going and get back in the studio to create more hits. As she continued to smash records and solidify her status as a household name, she soon enough embarked on her first world tour.
9. Her legacy and impact as a feminist
Throughout the documentary we see interview clips of artists like Kelsea Ballerini and Avril Lavigne share how Shania Twain has impacted them as not only musicians but women. “I think Shania takes these universal ideas… all these things that are universal topics for songwriting, and she makes them sound like they’ve never been written about before,” Ballerini said. “Of course, there’s all these songs about feeling good as an empowered woman, but then there’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ you know what I mean? That’s the song.” The 1999 music video, along with its predecessor ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’, remain some of Twain’s most iconic and empowering looks, creating a legacy that has reached every generation and era since.
10. ‘Not Just A Girl’ is a new song!
To accompany the documentary, a track of the same name was released that reflects Twain’s life well, “I pack my suitcases, I’m going places. I’m gonna rule the world. I’m not just a girl.” The track is the only one off the Not Just A Girl: The Highlights album that’s new, the rest being a collection of Twain’s biggest hits throughout her career. Listen below!