It’s less than 24 hours before Shania Twain rocks the big city at the big daddy of arenas — Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden — and the diamond-selling diva still has no idea what she’s going to wear at her sold-out concert. That’s right — the ’90s style icon is flipping the fashion script on each night of her “Queen of Me” tour, pulling and repurposing pieces from her own closet on a wardrobe whim.
“It’s always a bit of being on the edge with the looks every night because there’s no wearing it twice,” she says. “It’s a one-time shot — and either it works or it doesn’t. I keep it a little dangerous because I get bored. So I’m really running with it, but I’m really enjoying the intensity of it.”
Indeed, after striking pose after pose in a fierce flurry of glam getups for her Alexa cover shoot, Twain is now feeling no pre-show stress. Sipping Champagne in a Chelsea Piers studio with a view of the sun setting over lower Manhattan, she’s the picture of cozy-in-my-skin chill as she stretches out like a cat on a couch — even as her 2-year-old Pomeranian, Sapphire, barks for her attention.
Never mind that the singer is juggling a world tour (the European leg kicks off on Sept. 14 in Glasgow, Scotland), a 25th anniversary reissue of her 1997 blockbuster “Come on Over,” and a recently announced return to Sin City (her latest Las Vegas residency opens in May 2024).
Just a couple weeks after turning 58 — which Twain celebrated by dedicating her signature ballad “You’re Still the One” to fans in a video shared on social media — the country-pop queen is ruling every part of her world with big boss energy.
That’s the empowering essence of “Queen of Me,” the singer’s sixth studio album, which was released in February.
“It really means, ‘I’m the boss of me,’” she says of the LP’s title. “I make my own decisions, I am confident in those decisions, and I take responsibility for those actions. And that makes me more comfortable in my own skin, makes me … a lot harder to throw off balance. I’m not a control freak, but I do believe in taking ownership of your own frame of mind. I accept responsibility for my own spirit, and if I’m not feeling happy right now, then I gotta change that. It’s not up to my man to change that. Rise to it yourself.”
Losing a sense of control during COVID lockdowns inspired the liberating spirit of “Queen of Me.”
Just take a listen to the single “Giddy Up!” — a buoyant bop that delivers “smiles for miles.”
“What the songwriting process did for me was allow me to escape into another frame of mind,” Twain explains. “I wanted to put some ‘up’ in my ‘giddy.’ So I wrote myself out of this COVID funk. I was able to project myself into this happy place. All of the songs were born from that escapism.”
When it came to doing the album artwork, the Canadian-born, Swiss-based songstress embraced a different kind of freedom by posing nude — strategically covering certain areas — in a photo shoot.
“Well, I’m the opposite from being an exhibitionist,” says Twain. “But I like to feel sexy, and I like to enjoy my body more now than ever. I used to hate my body. So when my body was young and, I guess, maybe one wouldn’t be afraid of exhibiting it, I was hiding it a lot.”
But Twain shed all of her inhibitions — right along with her clothes — in her 50s.
“I think I needed to capture where I am right now, because it’s a moment that I want to remember,” she reflects. “So I just had to be brave about it, to own it. And I felt really good that I felt like, ‘Yeah, I’m OK with that.’ I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror every day. I’m perfectly the way I should be. This is the way I should be at my age. I’m fine with it. And I’m not afraid of it anymore. It’s all good.”
Twain credits her new attitude to experiencing a midlife passage.
“I think menopause was a very good thing for me because there were a lot more things changing in everything about me physically that I had to very quickly come to terms with,” she says.
“Menopause taught me to quickly say, ‘You know, it may only get worse. So just love yourself now. Just get over your insecurities — they’re standing in your way. And fear is standing in your way.’ I always sing about being fearless and all of that. I go there when I write. But I’m not living it the way I’m writing it. And I want to live the way I write. I’m more fierce than I ever was because I really demanded it about myself.”
If Twain is living her best life now, then she’s definitely earned it.
Growing up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, she overcame poverty and an abusive stepfather, which she opened up about in her 2011 memoir, “From This Moment On,” and her 2022 Netflix documentary “Not Just a Girl.”
She not only survived, but thrived after the very public 2008 scandal of her ex-husband and producer, Robert “Mutt” Lange — with whom she has a son, EJ, 22 — cheating on her with her then-best friend Marie-Anne Thiébaud.
She eventually found love again with Thiébaud’s ex-husband, Swiss businessman Frédéric Thiébaud — the pair have been married since 2011.
She also endured a battle with Lyme disease that caused career-threatening vocal-cord damage, but after undergoing open-throat surgery in 2018, she became the cool darling of a new generation by duetting with Harry Styles at Coachella in 2022.
Suffice to say, she’s certainly come a long way from the woman who became a country-crossover sensation long before Taylor Swift, with three consecutive diamond-selling albums: 1995’s “The Woman in Me,” 1997’s “Come on Over” and 2002’s “Up!”
Her biggest blockbuster, “Come on Over,” went diamond twice over, with US sales of over 20 million — an unfathomable figure in today’s streaming-dominated world — thanks to hits such as “You’re Still the One,” “From This Moment On,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”
When Twain performs the latter two tunes on her “Queen of Me” tour — which comes back to North America on Oct. 12 — she dons the actual outfits from their original, boundary-pushing videos.
“It was just natural — I didn’t know what it was gonna do,” she says of her groundbreaking video vision. “There was no specific mission. I wasn’t thinking, ‘Let’s do something not typically country.’ None of us had any experience in country videos … like, what they were meant to look like. I wanted to just try this and this and this. And I was given that freedom.”
The trendsetting Twain — whose favorite designers include Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli — shook up the country establishment with her style and imagery, but she became somewhat of a Nashville outsider in the process.
“I had a lot of pushback from the country-music genre,” she says. “The visual elements were rejected entirely. They made country very nervous. I don’t feel I ever had country-music cred. But, like, I didn’t try to fit in there. I wanted to be international. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t walk the line.”
Photographer: Marc Hom; Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Photo Editor: Jessica Hober; Fashion Assistants: Alex Bullock, Jena Beck; Hair: Frankie Foye at IMAJ Artists using Oribe; Makeup: Ayami Nishimura at Forward Artists using Pat McGrath, Manicure: Sonya Meesh at Forward Artists using Kiss Nails