After 25 years on top, Shania Twain still says “Let’s Go!”
By Renee Werbin
Shania Twain is wowing them in Las Vegas — she gives Travelgirl the inside scoop on her creative process, her philanthropic side, her travel goals and why she trusts her instincts.
Travelgirl: It’s a great pleasure to welcome you back. You are celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Woman in Me, the first of your diamond trilogy of albums. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years. You look amazing and you have a wealth of energy.
Shania Twain: I would attribute my energy level to a great enthusiasm for life, love and the joy of making music. I still have a great appreciation for life and a deep gratitude for being appreciated by my fans. I’m honored to be respected by my peers after all these years; it brings on an amazing feeling. Being happy on the inside exudes beauty on the outside at every age.
TG: You’re back in Vegas soon, performing at Zappos Theatre at Planet Hollywood and serving as creative director of your show, Let’s Go. You both direct and perform, how do you manage to balance your life so well?
ST: Creatively, directing a live stage show starts long before opening night; the first hat a person wears in the development of a live show is that of creative director/producer. On average this process takes me and my team nine months to a year. The first phase is the overall vision and concept direction; I focus on choosing my team, which is paramount. Next comes structural design, stage layout and staging performers. There is also the ‘show behind the show’ the audience doesn’t see. This is where I plan the choreography. It all starts on paper as an initial design phase and I go from there. My stage and production managers and my engineers coordinate together to help achieve my artistic vision. Every department is involved — lighting, sound, set pieces, props — and they all need engineers and technicians to piece together the complex set up. I have a wonderfully talented team that materializes the magic. For all the moving parts to flow seamlessly and safely, the behind-the-scenes traffic of prop and mechanical operators needs to be well-rehearsed and choreographed.
“Let’s Go” has many moving parts including staircases, LED structures that double as costume change rooms and performance platforms; many move and slide simultaneously. There are many layers to the production process.
TG: Your songs are musical magic and you’ve incorporated many into your show. Will you talk about the dazzling costumes designed by Marc Bouwer?
ST: Marc Bouwer has been an incredible influence in my education on fashion designing. Visiting Marc at his studio early on in my career was like entering a fabric playground. My imagination ran wild. Touching and draping rich, unique fabrics was heaven. Marc was open to letting me “play” with these precious pieces so I could feel how they moved and draped my body. I felt like the possibilities were endless. I worked with fabrics in the raw that were not yet shaped and cut to predetermined styles.
Marc’s knowledge of fashion and hands-on tailoring and design was so impressive. I knew I wanted to be more involved in the design aspect of what I put on my body. Much of the process is experimentation and taking risks to find what worked best for me. My off-the-shoulder, hot red and pink ombra, stretch sequin mini dress, adorned with feathers and jeweled florets, stemmed from spunky and peppy songs. I wanted sexy, playful colors to capture the feisty spirit I envisioned. I worked out the footwear first so I could move energetically around the stage. I set the dress length and it just goes from there. I sent Marc my direction along with some crude hand sketches and he delivered something I love to wear and can perform comfortably in. These outfits withstand the rigors of a hundred wears, washes and the taxing quick changes. Marc knows how to realize a vision and has impeccable taste and invaluable advice.
TG: In 2010 you established the Shania Kids Can Clubhouse, which provides services for children in times of hardship, including meals, academic supplies, counselors and more.You helped raise your own siblings and managed to build a beautiful life for everyone. Will you talk about the Shania Kids Can Foundation?
ST: Shania Kids Can is the realization of a childhood dream and promise I made to myself at the age of 10. During a hungry stretch, when there was no food for breakfast, no lunch to take to school, no hot water to bathe in and no hot water to clean clothes, I went to school with greasy hair and dirty clothes — both hungry and embarrassed. I made a vow that when I made it someday, I would make sure to find a way to give other kids like me the tools and support to access good hygiene. I wanted to ensure they had adequate nourishment to avoid the distraction of hunger so they could learn and have enough physical energy for sports and play. I wanted to make sure they had proper clothing to be outside participating in recess activities and I really wanted to make sure they would be included on excursions. I wanted these children to have access to all the good things and these are just some things the Shania Kids Can Program offers..
I listed all of the things I experienced personally as a disadvantaged minor and added in what I knew other children were suffering through. Now, since the program has been put in to action, we have seen incredible progress in children’s grades, disciplinary issues, insecurities and inclusion. Humiliation and exclusion are things no child anywhere in the world should ever have to endure. My goal is to serve these afflicted children with relief and hope.
TG: Bravo, you continue to amaze me.We need more caring people like you in this world. You, alongside Live Nation Las Vegas and Caesars Entertainment, are donating $1 of every ticket purchased to Shania Kids Can. Please tell our readers how they can donate to this most worthwhile endeavor.
ST: The best way to donate to the Shania Kids Can Foundation today is via the foundation website: www.shaniakidscan.com
TG: You’ve won five Grammys and sold more than 90 million albums. What aspect of the industry is more rewarding —performing or the creative process?
ST: My passion is to create the work my audience appreciates. So it’s only natural the music comes first, then the joy of sharing it.
TG: I remember you like to travel from the last time we spoke. What’s on your travel bucket list?
ST: Mother/son horseback riding trip in Iceland on the incredible Icelandic horses, and a romantic horseback camping trek along the beaches of Portugal, riding on glorious, purebred Lusitano horses.
TG: How do you manage to balance your personal family life with your active schedule?
ST: Balance for me begins with family first. This is priority. Family is where I get the greatest reward in giving and the joy of unconditional love. Without their blessing I would feel guilty about dedicating time to artistic work. Thankfully I have an amazingly supportive husband. Lucky me! My son is also passionate about creating music so he has a natural consideration of my need to fulfill my creative appetite. Being a mother is the greatest gift I will ever know and his respect for what I do is incredibly important to me.
TG: Would you please give some sage advice for those young hopefuls who want to one day follow in your famous footsteps?
ST: My life has been a series of ups and downs, as most people my age can likely say. However, life started rocky from the beginning, so I learned early on that I had to decide for myself what was right and wrong and how to recognize the bad in order to gravitate, strive and take a strong hold of the good.
And… to never let go. That may sound vague in the way of advice, but if you apply this to everything personal and professional in life, you have the essentials. Every step of the way, if something deep down feels wrong, it usually is. If it feels right, it usually is. Independent decision-making is essential to success along with the ability to recognize what is right and good. Being the leader of yourself is the makings of a good leader. Someone who is able to make a decision without needing to know what anyone else thinks is imperative. Having opinions of your own and taking that risk; that’s the stuff of leaders.
If or when things don’t go as you hoped, learn from what didn’t go well or as planned and carry on. Learn from what you need to improve on and be a good team player by recognizing the talents of others and learning from them. Being a leader doesn’t mean you know it all. I believe it means more that you recognize you don’t know it all. I can say with experience that I have always drawn from those around me and I look to surround myself with those who question and those who think of things I don’t. It is lonely choosing a direction for yourself and the risk is even lonelier. But I have personally never reached a destination without being among talented company. I draw inspiration from those who see things from a different angle than I do.
TG: Can you give our readers a word of inspiration? You’ve endured hardships and created the most wonderful career and life. How have you managed to do it all and always with a smile on your face?
ST: Always think “smile first.” After all, why not smile? There is never any harm done and a smile can be infectious — even on oneself when you’re not in the best mood. You can meet the most straight-faced, miserable characters any day of the week and if you smile as a first connection, you will be surprised at how most respond to the positivity of a simple smile.
I believe we all deserve a smile whether we get it back or not. I mean it when I smile. Sincerity at the risk of being taken as naive is fine with me. I’m a small town girl and where I come from warmth and a sense of humor is lifesaving. Especially because the subzero temperatures can be ‘life threatening’. Literally. A neighborly, community spirit and sincere concern for others are essential. I wouldn’t be surprised if the term “crack a smile” came from up where I’m from considering on a cold winter’s day it can actually feel like your face is cracking when you smile. No joke!