As a kid growing up in rural Eastern Ontario, I spent a lot of time obsessing over Céline Dion. Hours would vanish as I sang along with her cassettes, imitating her trademark sound.
I’m not All By Myself in my Dion fandom — respondents to a survey of 1,500 people across the country overwhelmingly chose her as their favourite Canadian female artist (28 percent compared to next most popular, Shania Twain, with 19 percent).
These days, my Dion devotion mostly just comes out at karaoke, but when I was an impressionable pre-teen, her sappy schmaltz helped me get in touch with my emotions. And surely a diva with such global appeal has touched other people’s lives as she has mine. As she celebrates her 50th birthday Friday, here are some lessons (plus the songs that inspired them) I’ve gleaned from a lifelong lurve of Céline Dion.
Some Pretty Pictures
CelineDion-10 life lessons
Dreams can come true
Song: “Ce n’etait qu’un rêve“
Dion was just a 12-year-old kid performing in her parents’ piano bar in Charlemagne, Que., the youngest in a Catholic family of 14, when she and her mother and brother wrote “Ce n’etait qu’un rêve,” which translates to “Nothing But a Dream.” Her mother sent the tape to Québec music manager René Angélil and it moved him to tears. Angélil bet the farm on Dion (as in, he re-mortgaged his house to finance her career) and she was well on her way to fulfilling her dream of being a singer. She’s now the bestselling Canadian artist of all time.
Love always wins
Song: “Because You Loved Me“
As Céline’s career blossomed, thanks to an epic Eurovision win in 1988 and a successful English-language breakthrough with the glam-rock banger Where Does My Heart Beat Now, so too did romantic feelings for her manager, Angélil. She dedicated her third English-language effort The Colour of My Love to him, which functioned as a stealth announcement of their relationship status. Their love invited surprisingly little derision despite the 26-year age difference, and they’d go on to spend 21 years together before Angélil’s death to cancer in 2016. Dion said she kept her love under wraps until ’93, but felt such relief when they went public and married in a lavish Montreal ceremony in 1994. “Love always wins,” she told People in May 2016.
Go on, feel your feelings
Song: “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now“
Life, not unlike Dion’s power balladry, is a series of crescendos and diminuendos. Dion is probably one of the world’s most passionate people — passionate about her family, her fans, the causes close to her heart (she’s been a big advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and donated $1 million each to the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts). And she isn’t one to staunch the flow of tears, even if they come mid-performance.
Every conversation is a chance to sing
Song: “Let’s Talk About Love“
Whenever Dion opens her mouth, a song comes out — whether she’s in the middle of a chat in passing (when asked on the Met Gala red carpet about the depth of her dress pockets, she launched into a quick rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High”) or during a sit-down interview (she recently sang an invitation to Adele for a future collaboration). But it never scans as boastful, just pure joie de vivre.
Remember where you came from
Song: “Les Cloches du Hameau” (which she sings with her family)
Despite living in Las Vegas full time, Dion has maintained close ties with her home province of Québec. Her husband’s funeral took place in Montréal and she returned to the Canadian city to begin her 2016 tour. Though her childhood home in Charlemagne was demolished in 2014, she and her siblings (many of whom work with her) still maintain a strong connection to home. A foundation in their mother’s name remains based in the town to help “the development, self-esteem and academic success of Québec’s children.”
Shoes are for collecting
Song: “Just Walk Away“
We all have guilty pleasures. Dion’s is footwear. She doesn’t just have a couple hundred pairs of shoes. Mais non. Dion, a size nine, has 10,000 pairs of shoes, she told WWD.com ahead of the Met Gala last month. That’s 7,000 more than she told Ellen were in the closet of her Florida home back in 2013.
Learn a power pose
Song: “The Power of Love“
Feeling a little nervous before that work presentation? Just look in the mirror and execute a Dion-esque chest pound. Power posing has become a pop science darling as of late, but Dion was there with her legendary rib cage pounding, fist pumping emotive stage moves long before such gestures carried any sociological cred. The moves help Dion connect with her audience and might be an antidote to stage fright (which is only a problem for her sometimes).
You do you
Song: “Treat Her Like A Lady“
Pipes aside, Dion is known for being unabashedly eccentric. She’s an ambassador of Québécois quirk, always ready with a spontaneous musical wisecrack and a disarming girl-next-door charm that’s made her the butt of more than a few jokes. She’s also one hell of an imitator in her own right, with a particular affection for Sia.
Smoked meat is delicious
Song: “I Drove All Night” (to get that sandwich)
Let’s talk about Dion’s strong ambassadorship of smoked meat sandwiches. Not only does her Quebéc deli chain Nickels serve up slabs of the stuff, Dion and Angélil became part-owners of Schwartz’s — perhaps the most-famous Canadian smoked meat establishment — back in 2012. This affinity for smoked meat inspired our writer Courtney Shea to dream up some pretty rye updated names for Dion’s biggest hits (My personal fave: “I’m Everything I Am Because Pastrami.”)
Your Heart WILL Go On
Song: “My Heart Will Go On”
Heartbreak is part of life. We all lose people we love at one point or another. In January 2016, Dion lost both her manager-husband Angélil and her brother Daniel to cancer within days of each other. “There’s a reason for things,” she said in an interview with ABC News four months later. “I have to give myself a reason to go on.” And live her life she has, stepping out in updated designer duds and, yes, attending her first Met Gala solo. As Angélil, ever the showbiz mogul, might’ve told her himself: The Show Must Go On.