Shania Twain opens up to Oprah and on 'Today' show, breaks long silence on divorce
by Mandi Bierly
It’s an interesting thing when a notoriously private celebrity like Shania Twain goes through a public divorce: On the one hand, you admire her staying above the fray and keeping details to herself—you want that for her—but on the other, you really, really want to know everything.
Three years after her husband and best friend/assistant allegedly had an affair—they’ve never admitted it to her; her friend’s husband, now married to Twain, had to break that bit of news to her—Twain is finally talking. Promoting her new memoir, From This Moment On, and her new reality show Why Not? with Shania Twain (debuting Sunday on OWN), Twain has sat down with Oprah Winfrey and Meredith Vieira for revealing chats.
This morning on Today, Vieira was most interested in why Twain finally broke her silence, and in such a grand way. Twain said she realized she was obsessing about the death of her marriage and that while she’s not good at asking others for help, writing was always her form of expression. She wanted to write about something other than the betrayal she felt, so she began penning her autobiography, which put the divorce in perspective—it’s only a part of her life. (That actually makes sense.)
The memoir and TV show are her own form of therapy; it’s her way of facing things head-on. “I am genuinely a very private person, and I’ve probably been just too closed, and up to now, probably more closed than what was good for me,” she said. “And I also feel that a lot of that was just a bit of fear and anxiety, maybe worried about what people would think all the time, get criticized for it. And now I’m at a point where I feel sharing and giving testimony to a lot of things I’ve experienced in life will do more good for others than it would do keeping it to myself.”
Her chat with Oprah was obviously more in-depth. She spoke about how she herself never got all the details she wanted about her ex-husband Mutt Lange’s relationship with Marie-Anne Thiebaud, who Twain says had repeatedly comforted her when she asked Marie-Anne if she thought Mutt was acting strange. Mutt asked for a divorce, and the next day, Fred Thiebaud—who said he’d discovered the affair in a “quite concrete way”—told Twain about it because Mutt and Marie-Anne refused to.
The massive heartbreak Twain had already experienced in life made her want answers. ”Through my experience with my parents dying, the accident, for example, I was responsible for dealing with the lawyers and the insurance companies, and I had to know all the awful details—how they died, every mark on their body,” she told Winfrey. “It was hard at the moment, but I was able to then work through what I knew, and then in the end, I could come to understand it. By not understanding and knowing the details, your imagination is left to run wild.” Twain said she tried to phone Marie-Anne, but she didn’t respond. Twain read aloud from the letter she sent Marie-Anne, which is reprinted in the book, asking her to, “Find love somewhere else, from someone else that isn’t hurting two families so much.” (Anyone else think of the Dolly Parton song “Jolene” just then?)
The anxiety of the divorce—together with the fear she’s felt her entire life (she details family abuse in her memoir)—literally silenced Twain, who’s been diagnosed with dysphonia, a condition in which those emotions restrict the muscles around the larynx and make it difficult for her to sing. Through the book and the TV show, she’s hoping to regain her voice. ”Stage fright, domestic violence in the home as a child, my parents dying, not knowing what’s next; just all of these different stages of fear in my life,” she said. “I’ve just trapped my own voice, and now I’ve got to unwind all that.”
Twain does seem to be loosening up. She sees the humor in her finding love with Fred, who she married earlier this year. ”He was Marie-Anne’s husband. That’s twisted, if you really think about it,” she told Oprah. “But just so beautifully twisted.”
Readers, what do you think? Are you glad to finally learn Shania’s own take on her heartbreak? Will you be picking up her book or watching her new show?