After a 15 year music hiatus, Shania Twain is back. This month, she is on the cover of PEOPLE, and her cover story details her resilience, dedication and what she describes as a “renaissance period”.
It’s an interesting word choice, considering Beyonce’s claim over it since the release of her album this summer. But at its core, the word essentially means a revival – and that’s really what we’re seeing with Shania this year.
"It's like a renaissance period for me. To be experiencing it as a relevant artist still, that's rewarding," Twain told the magazine. "I feel a renewed confidence. I don't have anything to prove anymore, and I feel freedom in that."
It’s also interesting that there seems to have been some element of doubt in her mind that she would still be a “relevant artist”. But with her accolades, which include being named the bestselling female country artist of all time with more than 100 million records sold worldwide, how could anyone see her as anything but?
Her choice of the word “renewed” when describing her confidence despite recently opening up about not having much of it when she was younger is also noteworthy. She’s been known to bare a bit of midriff throughout her career – but that didn’t always come naturally to her. In a recent conversation with TalkShopLive, she said:
“I was a very insecure woman, girl....I was one of those teenagers that would never wear a bikini at the beach, for example. So I’m saying, well, the heck with that. I didn’t do it when I was younger, so I’m going to do it now. I’m going to feel and show that I feel comfortable in my own skin.”
The messaging surrounding the release of her sixth studio album, Queen of Me, is in such stark contrast to most of the messaging young women hear. In the past, when I’ve been ambivalent about posting a racy photo or wearing a skimpy outfit, the older women in my life have all said, “Do it while you’re young!” or, “Do it while you can!” as if at some point, it becomes physically impossible. So it is such a breath of fresh air to hear that Shania is not only refusing to confine herself to the imaginary barriers of age – but encouraging others to do the same.
In fact, whatever imaginary barriers there may be are getting kicked down - cowgirl boots and all, because she’s been posing nude! In an October Instagram post, she shared a few album teasers that featured photographs of her topless behind a horse and in an opened button-down shirt.
“These days, I'm feeling very comfortable in my own skin - and I think this album reflects that musically. Life is short and I want to be uplifted, colorful, unapologetic and empowered,” the caption read.
The lessons she’s learned and this period of reflection have all been very evident in her output lately. It’s so obvious that this stage of her life is very cathartic for her. Between her Netflix documentary released earlier this year, her upcoming world tour (which I shelled out a few hundred bucks on and will be attending by myself!), and her fiery social media presence, it is so nice to see her flourishing. We all know she’s been through a lot.
She spoke about her experience getting cheated on by ex-partner in marriage and music, Mutt Lange.
"It took a lot of working through, but I do believe that everyone's got to do what is right for them," she said, referring to his high-profile affair.
Mutt notoriously cheated on her with her friend Marie-Anne Thiébaud, leading to the couple’s divorce, as well as a divorce between Marie-Anne and her husband Frédéric, who, in a fascinating turn of events, Shania ended up marrying.
"I was able to recover as a singer, I was able to work through the fear of working without Mutt. I was able to work through finding my own independence again, as an artist, after being so long with a music partner," she said.
But her recovery didn’t come easily. She dealt with a host of setbacks along the way and her abilities as a musician – even before her divorce – were undermined and credited mostly to the men that worked alongside her in the studio.
"It was very offensive to be considered a molded artist, that it took a man or a team to mold me," she told PEOPLE. "I bit my tongue a lot. But when you're in the industry from a young age as a woman, you really learn how to let it roll off your back."
Shania’s sage advice on staying the course, getting up when you fall, learning to let things roll off your back and learning to find joy is a timely lesson. Lately, I’ve struggled a lot with trusting my internal compass. When you pick the wrong partner, maybe the wrong friend, or make any decision that backfires, it can cast a sense of doubt on your decision-making skills and the intuition you depend on to guide that process. I imagine Shania wondered how she missed the red flags in both her marriage and her friendship after realizing she had been cheated on.
But seeing her thrive, in this way, to this magnitude, at this stage in life is so encouraging for women who may be where Shania once was. Maybe we’re going through sh-t at work and not receiving the credit we feel we deserve. Maybe we’re having doubts about our choice of partner and wondering how we ended up in this relationship. Maybe we’re better friends to people than they are to us. Not only is Shania’s wisdom a guiding light for women like me who struggle to see the forest for the trees at times, but it is part of a wider, changing narrative about women and aging.
I’m lucky enough to consider a woman named Sara Smeaton my friend. Sara is a professional midlife coach. Her job is helping women who find themselves at a pivotal point in their lives reclaim their power and help them to make necessary transitions to fill the gap between who they are and who they want to be. Sometimes, the women Sara works with are recently divorced, sometimes, they’re recent empty-nesters, but sometimes, she works with women who are just looking to reclaim their power. Since following her on social media and seeing the slew of women she’s worked with flourish at every age, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the fear I used to have about aging.
Couple an age-positive Instagram feed with stories like Shania’s, Kate Winslet’s, and Jane Fonda’s – who by the way, turns 85 TODAY and is celebrating her cancer being in remission, yay! - indicate that success, happiness and even love, if you should so desire it, are all possible later in life, I have no choice but to be optimistic.
“I hope they’re inspired by my own sense of being so comfortable in my own skin. I wish I had been this unapologetic earlier in my life. If there’s anything that I can influence or inspire, it’s to feel that confidence so much earlier on in life,” Shania said. “It shouldn’t take years of blood, sweat and tears to feel that way. I’m just trying to help instill the message.”
And that’s exactly what she’s doing.