Shania Twain says she lives 'every day' learning how to be comfortable in her own skin: 'It's just a process'

The Canadian music icon spoke about insecurity, embracing womanhood and her tumultuous childhood on the "How to Fail" podcast.

Shania Twain performs at the grand opening of her Come On Over Residency at Bakkt Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on May 10, 2024 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Live Nation)
Shania Twain is the latest guest on the "How to Fail" podcast hosted by Elizabeth Day. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Shania Twain might be a celebrity you think of when you're turning to a role model for women's empowerment and confidence. But like any human, those qualities didn't come out of thin air for the Canadian songstress.

"I have a lot of scars," the Queen of Country Pop told Elizabeth Day on the "How to Fail" podcast. "I have a lot of scars from cooking. I have a lot of scars from working in the bush with sharp tools. I have a lot of emotional scars. ... I've been through a challenging childhood and then my open throat surgery. Over time, I have realized that all of those experiences have really made me who I am today and I wear them well."

On the latest episode of "How to Fail," released on Wednesday, 58-year-old Twain opened up about turning her pain into art, learning how to self-reflect in her marriage, growing up in a tumultuous household and more.

Oftentimes when she experiences pain or suffering, Twain noted she turns to writing: "I'll document my feelings, I'll put things down, they're very raw, they're very real, they're very in the moment, and I live them. I like to live through my suffering."

Twain added she wants to understand herself. For instance, she'll overanalyze experiences until she gets to a point of understanding where she might feel healed, but she still carries that pain. She then channels that into her music, where a lot of her songs might've originated in that adversity but now looks back with a playful, humorous tone.

"They're now reflections of what I've been through," she shared. "But they are on the other side. They are the healed experience with a scar."

She shared her mega-hit, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," was a piece she wrote reflecting on her past self when she didn't feel comfortable in her own skin. But after overcoming that hurdle and writing that tune, she explained it's a "song of celebration and realization and ownership of the fact that I've been through the challenges that a lot of other women have been through."

While Twain is a celebrity who seemingly oozes confidence, getting to that point didn't come naturally: "I've been someone that has been coming into my comfort my whole life. I think it's just a process. I live it every day."

She overcame that initial hurdle when she began embracing and celebrating her womanhood in "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" But there was also a visual element once she began filming the song's music video.

Twain shared that prior to then, she had never performed while wearing clothes that revealed her body. Moreover, she said she had never even worn a bathing suit at the beach. It was an insecurity she didn't realize she had until she made the connection while writing "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"

"Now, I'm perfectly fine," she indicated. "But it's been a process for me. The 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!' video was the very first time I'd ever performed with legs at all."

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - SEPTEMBER 23:  Frederic Thiebaud and Shania Twain attend the Opening Night and premiere of
Twain and Frédéric Thiébaud have been married since 2010. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for ZFF)

Twain was married to South African record producer Robert "Mutt" Lange from 1993 to 2010. They were one of the music industry's biggest power couples, but eventually emploded after Lange allegedly began an affair with Marie-Anne Thiébaud, who had been married to Twain's now-husband, Frédéric Thiébaud.

Twain and Frédéric tied the knot in 2010, and the couple have since been happily married. But Twain noted in this partnership, she's now reflecting "very regularly" and recalls moments where might've not been the best spouse in the past.

"I've learned so much about myself and I realize, 'OK, I don't want to make the same mistakes again,'" she noted. "It's been more of a self-reflection while now being in a second marriage, realizing that 'let's not repeat the same thing twice.'

"Any marriage is going to have ups and downs, and relationship. ... I definitely reflect more that I definitely did in my first marriage. I'm better at that now, I think."

Twain contracted Lyme disease in 2003, after she was bitten by a tick while horseback riding. It's a condition you don't want to get, as it can cause various ailments that sometimes last for life. For Twain, she developed nerve sensitivities she said will be there forever.

"It didn't affect my brain," she said. "It is very often a heart issue, which is not the case for me, thankfully. So the brain and the heart are the two most vulnerable with Lyme disease. ... I consider myself lucky, even though it was the voice."

Shania Twain performing in 2003 on the
Twain said she was performing on her "Up! Tour" in 2003 while infected with Lyme disease and not receiving treatment. (Photo by R. Diamond/WireImage)

Twain said she had found the tick on her body the day she was bitten. But since Lyme disease doesn't immediately show up in your blood, she spent a couple of weeks untreated with symptoms building. While she grew more afraid in that time, she added she was fortunate enough that she was on her "Up! Tour" at the time and there was "a real immediacy" to getting her treated and back on stage.

She shared the symptoms she experienced were "terrible," and she frequently had mini blackouts and stumbled while on stage. Initially after coming off that tour, she wasn't feeling any anxiety about losing her voice permanently. It wasn't until a year after where she hadn't seen improvements yet had no explanation from specialists and no damage to her vocal chords: "It was a bit like a sick joke in the end that it would be the larynx that would suffer."

From the age of eight, Twain said her mother often sent her to perform at "dark, smelly, smoky" bars to help earn money for the family. She recalled her mother would take any opportunity she could to send her to perform, noting the local bars had become her "classrooms" despite being a "terrible" environment for a child.

"If I didn't earn anything from it, it was going to be a domestic problem because we were using gas in the car to get there," she said. "We would at least have to be able to put the gas back in the car. We at least needed 20 bucks, we needed 50 bucks, we needed to be able to contribute something to the groceries."

Growing up, Twain's family was poor. Their cupboards were often empty and there were times where their heat would be shut off in the middle of the winter. Twain's father was also at times physically abusive towards her mother.

"Any $5 went a long way," she recalled. "So I couldn't just go do it for nothing. If we did get home without making any money and we used up the gas money in the car, then my parents would fight, and there was a lot of violence in our home."

Each time Twain sees an accomplishment in her career, she recalls the person who was "there for all of the beginning and none of the success." Twain's parents, Jerry and Sherry, died when she was 22 years old. They were 40 and 42, respectively, when they died in a car crash in 1987. It was a grief she said she'd never felt before: "Their death was, first of all, the shock factor because it was an accident. When you're not prepared, it's just dropping out of the sky, this enormous devastation."

"When I think of the suffering my mother went through, as a grown woman myself and as a parent now as well, I just think, 'Oh, my mother suffered so much in her whole life and then in their marriage,'" Twain noted. "She lived for my music. That was her lifeline. That was the sunshine in her day sometimes, a lot of times.

"It is only when we talk about them not being here for my success that I think of her more."

Growing up, Twain recalled there were only men in the music industry, especially in her hometown. There might've been the odd woman who was a singer, but when it came to taking the stage, she typically wasn't going to the bar because there was already a woman set to perform. It was an all-male environment — one where she often experienced men cross boundaries despite her being very young — Twain said she had to push through.

"When you're in the company of men that are intoxicated, boundaries get blurry and you learn young as a girl in a very man's world, especially then, you learn how to navigate that," she said. "By the time I went to Nashville, ... I was already in my later 20s. I'm fearless at this point. I'm like, 'There is no man in my presence that intimidates me for one second in this room. I am just savvy now.' By now, I'm way more confident about how to be a woman in the room and without being timid."

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