Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario to Sharon and Clarence Edwards. Her parents divorced when Shania was two and Sharon moved with her three daughters (Shania, her older sister Jill and younger sister, Carrie Ann) to the small northern community of Timmins, Ontario. There, she married Jerry Twain, who adopted Sharon's three girls. They also subsequently had a son, Mark.
However, Shania remembers years of abuse at Jerry's hands. The abuse was so bad that one time when a beating left Sharon unconscious, the little girl believed Jerry had killed her. Another time, when Shania tried to defend Sharon, Jerry punched Shania, then 11, in the jaw.
Because there was no money coming in, the children often went hungry. Shania, who showed talent at an early age and taught herself to play guitar by age eight, began performing at 12 at community events and clubs to earn money to buy food.
Although Shania left home for Toronto at 18 to try her hand at a singing career, in 1987, when Jerry and Sharon were killed in a car accident, Shania returned north to take care of her younger sister and brother, as well as Jerry's nephew, Darryl, whom the couple adopted when he was orphaned years earlier. She landed a job singing at the Deerhurst resort in nearby Huntsville, Ontario.
Shania, who'd begun to write songs at age 10, made a demo and sent it to Nashville. She was signed to Polygram Records, but they didn't like her first name, so she changed it to Shania, an Ojibwe word that means "I’m on my way," to honor her adoptive father's heritage.
Her first album, Shania Twain, released in 1993 and caught the attention of record producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. They began writing songs together and her next album, The Woman in Me, which released two years later, was a critical and commercial hit, winning Best Country Album at the 1996 Grammy Awards.
Her 1997 album, Come on Over, became the best-selling album by a female artist in any genre with over 40 million copies sold worldwide. Eight of the 12 songs on the album were released as singles.
She married Lange on December 28, 1993 and they had a son, Eja, in August 2001. Several years later, when Lange's affair with Shania's best friend became known, they separated and their divorce was finalized in 2010. On January 1, 2011, Shania married Frédéric Thiébaud. Her autobiography, From This Moment On, was released later that year.
Although Shania had appeared as herself in the 2004 movie I Heart Huckabees, in 2019, she made her feature film acting debut as Becca in the indie film Trading Paint, starring alongside John Travolta. She went on to play A.J. Kapa's mother in Lionsgate's musical film I Still Believe (2020), based on the true life of Christian singing star Jeremy Camp.
Photo credit: Denise Truscello