Céline Dion has achieved levels of international fame throughout her career that few artists could ever hope to reach. The French Canadian singer first found success as a teenager in the ’80s. With her larger-than-life vocals and performance style, it didn’t take long for the young singer to find international fame. Her iconic performances on the titular song in Beauty and the Beast and “My Heart Will Go On” in Titanic have given her certified legend status.
Even though Dion remains one of the biggest musical stars in the world to this day, her road to fame and fortune wasn’t quite as clear cut as it may seem. From her humble beginnings in small-town Quebec to her brushes with tragedy, hers has been a sometimes bumpy road. Nevertheless, she has risen above it all and come out stronger than ever. Here is the stunning transformation of Céline Dion.
Céline Dion grew up in Charlemagne, Quebec in a large family of modest means
Céline Dion was born on March 30, 1968, in the small town of Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada to Adhémar and Thérese Dion. Things weren’t exactly easy for the Dion family, but they were a resilient, optimistic troop. Dion was the youngest of 14 children. “We didn’t have much money,” the singer told Woman’s Weekly, “but I never considered us to be poor because my parents were great survivors and they instilled that in me too.”
By the sounds of things, her parents certainly did make the best of a difficult (or at least a crowded) situation. She recalled to Vanity Fair, “My mum was brilliant enough to put a pillow in a drawer for a baby to sleep in. We were safe and warm and taken care of.” For Dion and her sisters, the lack of money was never an issue. As she put it, “We were given love and affection and support. What else did we need?”
Céline Dion grew up in a very musical home and was inspired by her siblings
While kindness and support were a huge part of Céline Dion’s upbringing, another important feature of her upbringing was music. As she once revealed on Lorraine, her love for singing began at an early age. When asked how she spent her childhood, she replied, “I was on the kitchen table, because that was my stage and I was singing for my brothers and sisters.”
Apparently, this type of behavior was pretty ordinary in the Dion household. In fact, as the singer explained to Elle, she and her siblings performed as a troop, much like the kids in The Sound of Music, even when she was a baby.
As Dion once told People, her mother’s musical talent was a particular inspiration to her as a child. “She was a great musician, and she loved to sing,” she recalled. In fact, her mother even wrote her first song!
At 12 years old, Céline Dion's mother sent a tape of her singing to music manager René Angélil
Even though Céline Dion grew up in a crowded, busy house filled with music and musicians, her talent stood out from the beginning. In fact, Dion’s mother, Thérese, was so taken with her youngest’s powerhouse pipes, she wrote Céline a song, “Ce N’etait Qu’un Reve,” which she recorded and promptly sent to the Quebec-based music manager René Angélil.
Angélil was, quite understandably, blown away by the young girl’s singing ability. As Dion once told People, she was invited to audition for him in person. “While I was singing, he started to cry,” she recalled. “I knew then I had done a good job” (via Good Housekeeping).
Of course, meeting Angélil was a momentous turning point in Dion’s life. Not only did he go on to become her lifelong manager, he eventually became her husband.
Céline Dion released her debut album in 1981 at just 13 years old
Even though René Angélil was an established manager, he had a hard time finding financial backing for Céline Dion, his new protégé. So, as the Montreal Gazette reported, he cut ties with all of his other clients, mortgaged his house, and financed her first album himself.
After he financed her album, Céline Dion made her professional debut in the music industry at the age of 13 with the album La Voix du Bon Dieu. As stated in a biography on the Governor General of Canada’s website, the French album quickly made her a star in Quebec and in other French nations around the world.
For Dion, becoming a professional, recognized singer was a dream come true. As she told the Montreal Gazette, “The only dream I ever had was to be famous and to sing all my life and travel all over the world performing.” With her first album’s success, she was well on her way.
Céline Dion started secretly dating René Angélil and eventually married him
As we’ve already mentioned, René Angélil became a hugely important figure in Céline Dion’s life. Not only did he help her realize her dreams of becoming a professional singer, he also developed a romantic relationship with her as she got older.
As she explained to Access Hollywood, “So maybe at 17, 18 years old, my feelings started to change for him. I kind of saw him differently.” Apparently, her mom found out early on and tried to stop the relationship from happening because of the 26-year age gap and [Angélil’s] complicated relationship history. But, eventually, she gave in. “She had no choice,” Dion said. “Love won.”
According to Good Housekeeping, Dion was 19 years old when she and Angélil went on their first real date; however, it was another five years before the couple went public with their relationship in a message in the notes of Dion’s album The Color of My Love. The pair married in 1994 in an extravagant affair that was broadcast on Canadian television.
The relationship was clearly the right path for Dion. As she later told Vanity Fair in 2012, he was “the first and only man of my life.”
Céline Dion found international fame when she performed the title track of Beauty and the Beast
While Céline Dion’s career was definitely gaining momentum throughout the ’80s, it wasn’t until her famed appearance on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack that she really set things in motion. When Dion sang the title song with Peabo Bryson, she was suddenly a bonafide international star, picking up her first Grammy Award for her performance and even performing at the Oscars.
In a 2012 interview for Entertainment Tonight, Dion explained just how important the song had been for her. “This song gave me a name in a way,” she said. She went on to explain that while she had recently started singing in English, few English listeners knew who she was. Beauty and the Beast, she said, “put me on the map.”
Years later, Dion performed another song called “How Does a Moment Last Forever” for the live-action remake of the movie. As she explained to Entertainment Tonight, she was “in love” with the first movie. Plus, she acknowledged how important the song had been for her career. “Beauty and the Beast had brought me to where I am today,” she said.
Throughout the '90s, Céline Dion's fame grew until her iconic performance on the Titanic soundtrack
It seems that the ’90s was all about singing on movie soundtracks for Céline Dion. After her iconic turn on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack, Dion cemented herself as one of the iconic singers of the decade with the epic “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic soundtrack. As The Atlantic pointed out, the song became “imprinted on the movie’s legacy.”
As Dion explained in an interview for the American Film Institute, she was approached by the songwriter James Horner about singing the song. After he explained how the song would fit into the touching scenes of the sinking Titanic, Dion sang a demo of the song. “It felt incredible,” she recalled. When James Cameron, the director of the film, heard the song, Dion said, “He fell in love with it.” Of course, the rest is history. The song became “synonymous” with the movie, as Billboard put it. Plus, it kept the movie’s soundtrack in the number one position for 16 weeks after its release!
Becoming a mother is what Céline Dion calls her greatest achievement
Céline Dion had two kids with René Angélil — Rene-Charles in 2001 and twin boys Eddy and Nelson in 2010. Having children hadn’t been easy for Dion and Angélil. She ended up using in-vitro fertilization for both of her pregnancies, so when Rene-Charles was finally born, it was a huge joy and relief. As her obstetrician told People, “Everybody was just crying tears of joy.” Their friend, David Foster, added, “This was their dream. It’s bigger than any hit record, bigger than anything for them.”
By the sounds of things, Dion really was overjoyed to become a mother. In an interview with Woman’s Weekly, she revealed, “My greatest reward is my children.” She went on, “Unless you are a mum you don’t know what you’re missing or what it even is really. It felt for me that with all my children another heart grew inside of me.” She added that while the umbilical cord was physically cut with each of her children’s births, she felt that the strong tie remained. As she put it, “Once you’re a mum you’re a mum for life.”
Céline Dion took two breaks from her career to focus on her family
After Céline Dion gave birth to her twins, she took a four-year break from her career to take care of her family. This first career break began in 2000 when her husband, René Angélil, was diagnosed with throat cancer (via BBC). She returned to her career in 2011 with her Las Vegas show.
Then, in 2014, Dion announced another break. Her husband, René Angélil, had been struggling with throat cancer and had recently undergone a serious operation, so, as Dion wrote on her website, “I want to devote every ounce of my strength and energy to my husband’s healing and, to do so, it’s important for me to dedicate this time to him and to our children” (via The Telegraph). The decision to take a break meant cutting her Las Vegas residency short and canceling a planned tour of Asia.
Céline Dion spent years in Las Vegas which gave her stability
After years of touring the world, Céline Dion eventually found some stability by taking up a residency in Las Vegas. Her show A New Day opened in 2003 in Vegas and ran successfully for five years. Dion seemed to be a perfect fit for the city. In fact, as of 2019, the show was still the most financially successful the city had ever seen. At first, Dion told Elle, the concept of taking up a residency in Las Vegas worried her fans and colleagues. “People thought we were absolutely bazooka for performing here!” she said.
However, the residency proved to be a huge success. For Dion, it meant some semblance of a stable family life, as she told CBS Watch (via People). By 2019, Dion was settled in Las Vegas. “I’m not even thinking about leaving,” she told Elle. “I think I can stay as long as I want, if Las Vegas will want me to stay.” Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Dion ended her eight-year Vegas residency in 2019.
Céline Dion's husband and manager, René Angélil, passed away in 2016
In 2016, Céline Dion’s husband and manager, René Angélil, passed away. Dion was heartbroken. In 2021, she posted a moving tribute to her late husband on the five-year anniversary of his passing. As she confessed to The Sun, “I think I will probably grieve for the rest of my life.” And as she told Today several years later, she had no plans of finding someone new. “I don’t date,” she said. “I’m not ready to date.”
However, as she told Q on CBC in 2019, she was able to get through the difficult time with courage. “Losing the father of my children, my husband, my manager, the person that I love the most in the world and the person that I can rely upon without questioning anything since I’m 12 years old — losing that person was a big deal on me.” In 2019, Dion released the album Courage. As she explained of the titular song on the album, “I don’t think a song could have been written more appropriately than this one at this time of my life, taking charge of my inner strength.”
Over the years, Céline Dion developed her own unique fashion sense
While Céline Dion is primarily known for her unforgettable voice, the singer has also made a name for herself as something of a trendsetter. As Elle reported, the singer discovered the stylist Law Roach through his work with Zendaya on Instagram. He famously dressed her in a Titanic hoodie worth $885, which was a huge hit online. Since then, Roach has helped Dion come up with multiple futuristic, daring looks.
As Good Morning America reported in 2019, Dion was consistently topping best dressed lists and had even announced plans to build a “fashion playground” in her home. In another interview for Good Morning America, Dion opened up about her style. “I dress for me, the way I feel,” she said. “I want to feel that I feel great about myself, I feel strong about myself, I feel good about my decisions with the help of a lot of people.” One thing’s for sure — this star’s unique fashion sense is hard to ignore!
Céline Dion has become an icon for younger generations
Even though Céline Dion’s fame peaked in the ’90s, she certainly hasn’t faded out of the public’s consciousness. In fact, in more recent years, she’s enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with the younger generations. As The Telegraph reported in 2017, Dion has even become a timeless icon with age. As the publication pointed out, Dion had been ridiculed as over-the-top for many years. However, when her husband passed away, people began to take her sweeping, emotional ballads more seriously. Dion’s extravagant lifestyle and performance style have also contributed to her icon status.
And as Elle noted, her fans have been able to form a sense of community on social media, where Dion has begun sharing more of her exciting life. While Dion was once obsessed with her work, she has become more easy going and spends more time enjoying life. “Now,” she said, “I am discovering myself more and more. I am a woman assuming her own destiny, full of energy and in love with life.” It’s no wonder a whole new generation of fans have found her zest for life so infectious.
In 2018, Céline Dion turned 50 — and felt better than ever
Céline Dion turned 50 in 2018 — and instead of slowing down, she sped up. As she revealed to The Sun, “To be honest with you, I think I’m at the best of my life right now and I really want to enjoy and embrace every moment of it.” She added, “It’s all new. It’s like I’m having a second wind — 50 has been great for me.” As Dion went on to explain, she hadn’t forgotten the memory of her late husband, Rene Angelil — “he’s always within me,” she said.
However, with her new lease on life and her new independence, she’d been able to forge her own exciting new path as a fashion icon, a business woman, and, of course, a singing superstar. She even announced a new one-off show in the United Kingdom! One thing’s crystal clear — Dion is just getting started, and we’re sure to see a whole lot more of her in the future.
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