Shania Twain was known to be very reserved about her private life. However, the publication of her memoir, From this Moment On in 2011 gave some insight to some of her life experiences. In it, she recounts a childhood growing up in an abusive household and living for a time with her mother and siblings in a homeless shelter in Toronto. After leaving their home, Twain writes, “Mom got out of the car to use a pay phone while we sat and waited in the car, returning a few minutes later with a piece of paper on which she’d scribbled the address of a homeless shelter. That night, we slept in a crowded, sweltering place on cot-like beds spread out along the walls of a series of spacious, open rooms designed for large groups.”
Shania had a really difficult childhood. Her birth parents divorced when she was 2 years old, and her mum Sharon got remarried to Jerry Twain who adopted Shania (then known as Eilleen) and 2 younger sisters. Her parents didn’t earn much and could barely afford food in their household. In fear that her little family would be broken up if she did, Twain did not confide her situation to school authorities. Her mother and stepfather's marriage was stormy at times, and from a young age she witnessed violence between them. Her mother also struggled with bouts of depression. Sharon returned to Jerry with the children in 1981. Twain sang at bars at the age of eight to try to assist with her family's bills, often earning $20 between midnight and 1 a.m. performing for remaining customers after the bar had finished serving alcohol. She didn’t like singing in those bars, but she believes that this was her own kind of performing-arts school on the road. She has said of the ordeal, "My deepest passion was music and it helped. There were moments when I thought, 'I hate this.' I hated going into bars and being with drunks. But I loved the music and so I survived." She states that the art of creating, of actually writing songs, "was very different from performing them and became progressively important".
In the early 1980s, Twain spent some time working with her father's reforestation business in northern Ontario, which employed some 75 Ojibwe and Cree workers. Although the work was demanding and the pay low, Twain said, "I loved the feeling of being stranded. I'm not afraid of being in my own environment, being physical, working hard. I was very strong, I walked miles and miles every day and carried heavy loads of trees. You can't shampoo, use soap or deodorant, or makeup, nothing with any scent; you have to bathe and rinse your clothes in the lake. It was a very rugged existence, but I was very creative and I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and a guitar and would just write songs." On November 1, 1987, Twain's mother and stepfather died in a car accident approximately 50 kilometers north of Wawa, Ontario. She moved back to Timmins to take care of her younger siblings and took them all to Huntsville, Ontario, where she supported them by earning money performing at the nearby Deerhurst Resort.
Twain signed with Mercury Nashville Records in the early 1990s, where she sang backing vocals for some of the label’s other artists, including Sammy Kershaw’s 1993 album Haunted Heart and Jeff Chance’s 1992 Walk Softly on the Bridges album, before releasing her self-titled debut on the 20th of April 1993 in North America. Commercially the album was a failure upon release even though it gained positive reviews from critics.
Shania’s sophomore album, The Woman in Me was co-written and produced by rock producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. The latter had heard the Shania Twain album and offered to produce for her. The pair met eventually at Nashville’s Fan Fair in June 1993 after many phone convos, and became so close they got married on the 28th of December that same year. The Woman in Me was released on the 7th of February 1995, and it was Shania’s breakthrough album, which had at least 3 No.1 hits with a lot of the singles of the album doing exceedingly well.
It is however her 1997 Come On Over album that established Twain as an international popstar. The 16 track album had 12 of it’s songs released as singles, including “You’re Still the One” (which skyrocketed the album sales when it was released) and “From This Moment On”. The album peaked at number 2 on Billboard 200 and stayed on the charts for the next 2 years, selling 40 million copies and becoming the biggest selling album by a female musician of all time, while breaking grounds across the world for the superstar. She went on to release another album, Up! on the 19th of November 2002 and it went on to be certified diamond by the RIAA.
All of this future success helped grow her debut album, and has made Twain the only female artist in history to be certified diamond on three consecutive albums by the RIAA. She may have struggled at the start of her life, but she has become a legendary phenomenon. She has been nominated for the Grammys 18 times and has 5 wins to her name. She is presently worth over $400 million dollars and has sold over 100 million records, making her the best-selling female artist in country music history and one of the best-selling music artists of all time.