Shania Twain is opening up abuse she suffered a a child that caused her to take extreme measure to avoid being assaulted by her late stepfather. In an interview with the Sunday Times Style magazine, the “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” singer, 57, revealed that her struggle with body image stems from the sexual and physical abuse she suffered from stepfather Jerry Twain, which caused her to change the way she looked to deal with the abuse.
“I hid myself and I would flatten my boobs,” Twain explained of a method she devised in an attempt to avoid attention. “I would wear bras that were too small for me, and I’d wear two, play it down until there was nothing girl about me. Make it easier to go unnoticed. Because, oh my gosh, it was terrible — you didn’t want to be a girl in my house.”
When Twain’s stepfather and mother died in a 1987 car crash when she was 22-years-old, the singer had to raise her three younger siblings in destitute conditions in Timmons, Ontario as she was attempting to launch her singing career. “Then you go into society and you’re a girl and you’re getting the normal other unpleasant stuff too, and that reinforces it,” she said. “So then you think, ‘Oh, I guess it’s just s—ty to be a girl. Oh, it’s so s—ty to have boobs.’ I was ashamed of being a girl.”
Twain recalled the conundrum she faced when promoting her music between the need to lean into and appreciate her body and her femininity in the wake of the sexual trauma of her early years. “All of a sudden it was like, well, what’s your problem? You know, you’re a woman and you have this beautiful body?,” she recalled thinking. “What was so natural for other people was so scary for me. I felt exploited, but I didn’t have a choice now. I had to play the glamorous singer, had to wear my femininity more openly or more freely. And work out how I’m not gonna get groped, or raped by someone’s eyes, you know, and feel so degraded.”
After signing a recording contract and beginning work with her producer and future first husband Robert “Mutt” Lange, Twain described herself as the kind of woman who, “When I walked in the room, it’s like, don’t even get any closer. It was clear in my body language. And I think maybe what young girls can learn too is to exude that confidence.” Besides, Twain said, “I was never an exhibitionist for the sake of, like, saying, you know, ‘Look at my t–s.’ It was really me coming into myself. It was a metamorphosis of sorts.”
Over the years, Twain explained, she learned how to control the narrative, love her body and to, “speak and tell a story about myself by the way I moved my body, the drape of the fabrics, the colors, where the focus was.”
Twain received the Music Icon award at last week’s 2022 People’s Choice Awards, where she also performed a medley of her biggest hits. The country superstar’s sixth studio album, Queen of Me, is slated for release on Feb. 3.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.