Today, fans all over the world see Shania Twain as a shining beacon of inspiration, a model of confidence for women and girls everywhere. Recently, however, the “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” singer revealed that the effortless confidence she seems to exude was a facade in the early days of her career.
Because of the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather, the road to overcoming the severe childhood trauma and resulting struggles with body image has been a long and difficult one for Shania Twain.
As a child, she tried to change the way she looked to escape the abuse, eventually coming to hate her identity as a girl. “I hid myself and I would flatten my boobs,” the country music icon told The Sunday Times. “I would wear bras that were too small for me, and I’d wear two, play it down until there was nothing girl about me. Make it easier to go unnoticed. Because, oh my gosh, it was terrible — you didn’t want to be a girl in my house.”
How Shania Twain Turned Trauma to Confidence
At 22, however, Shania Twain had no choice but to accept herself and embrace her womanhood, as she began a career in music to support her younger siblings after the death of her mother and stepfather. But that doesn’t mean the singer was able to change her entire outlook overnight.
“Then you go into society and you’re a girl and you’re getting the normal other unpleasant stuff too, and that reinforces it,” Twain said. “So then you think, ‘Oh, I guess it’s just s—ty to be a girl. Oh, it’s so s—ty to have boobs.’ I was ashamed of being a girl.”
“All of a sudden it was like, well, what’s your problem? You know, you’re a woman and you have this beautiful body?” she continued. “What was so natural for other people was so scary for me. I felt exploited, but I didn’t have a choice now. I had to play the glamorous singer, had to wear my femininity more openly or more freely. And work out how I’m not gonna get groped, or raped by someone’s eyes, you know, and feel so degraded.”
Over years of hard work and self-discovery, that admirable Shania Twain brand of confidence became a reality. As she found success and was signed to a label in Nashville, where she met her future producer and first husband, Robert “Mutt” Lange, Twain realized she no longer had to fake it. She had made it.
“By the time I had my record contracts I was the kind of woman that … when I walked in the room, it’s like, don’t even get any closer,” the singer recalled. “It was clear in my body language. And I think maybe what young girls can learn, too, is to exude that confidence.”