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"It was like a death." 13 things we learned from Shania Twain's new Netflix documentary.

Let's go, girls.

Shania Twain is a goddamn icon, and her new Netflix documentary, Not Just A Girl, further cements that.

The film was released on July 26, the latest in Netflix's ever-growing catalogue of behind-the-scenes looks at the lives of the world's biggest pop musicians.

The documentary recounts Twain's entire career, from sneaking out of the house with her mother at night to sing in bars, to her fraught introduction to Nashville, to becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time whose influence and barrier-breaking paved the way for other stars.

Watch: Shania Twain's Not Just A Girl trailer. Post continues below video.


Video via Netflix.

Twain also talks through one of the toughest periods of her life, when she discovered her husband Mutt Lange's affair around the same time she was diagnosed with Lyme disease and concerned she would never sing again.

Here are 13 of the most fascinating things Twain covers in Not Just A Girl.

Shania Twain had a difficult childhood.

Twain grew up in the mining town of Timmins, Ontario, about 700 kilometres north of Toronto. 

She said her family - which included her parents Jerry and Sharon and five children - often struggled financially.

"There was always a problem paying electric bills, the rent, always a problem buying groceries, so it was just this struggle all the time," she said.

She also spoke briefly about growing up in a violent household, saying that music was an escape she used to block everything else out.

Shania Twain was inspired by Dolly Parton.

Shania Twain and Dolly Parton in 2006. Image: Getty.

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Twain said that her parents both loved music, especially country music, so she grew up listening to a lot of it. 

Her personal favourite was Dolly Parton's 'The Coat Of Many Colors', which tells the story of Parton's own upbringing in poverty.

"Dolly Parton was a big influence on me," she said. 

"She had lived a life that was very interesting, you know, grew up in a little shack, with a bunch of kids, not a lot of money. I was fascinated by her story and I related and thought, 'well, if she came from all the way there and ended up all the way over there, I guess it's possible. Maybe I have a shot.'"

Shania Twain's mother used to sneak her out of the house at night to perform.

Twain said she was just three when she started singing publicly. 

Her mother would put her on countertops and let her sing along to the jukebox for people in restaurants.

She started playing guitar at eight years old, which was around the same time her mother would take her to perform after hours in local bars.

"She'd say 'Okay, I'm going to come get you up once your dad's asleep and then we're going to sneak out and go to the bar and you're going to sing a set'. And sometimes we'd get back, and he'd still be sleeping, and other times he'd be waiting for us. That would not end well," she said.

She said she was allowed to sing there only once the bar was legally no longer serving alcohol.

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Shania Twain's parents died when she was 22.

Twain's parents died in a car crash on November 1, 1987, when she was 22. Twain became the sole supporter of her three younger siblings.

At this point, she considered giving up singing to get a 'real', more stable job. Thankfully, she found an opening at the Deerhurst Resort 215 kilometres north of Toronto, so she and her family moved to nearby Huntsville where she supported them all.

"It turned out that live performing was going to pay better, even at this level, at that little level, than working a regular day job," she said. "It was pretty decent paying. I was able to support my brothers. I was able to make enough money to put food on the table singing at this resort."

She said working at the resort helped her realise she had a talent that was worth pursuing, so she 'worked her ass off' in the hopes of getting a break.

Shania Twain doesn't consider her debut album truly 'her'.

Shania Twain's 'What Made You Say That' caused controversy in country music for being a little... raunchy. Image: Mercury Records.

After working at Deerhurst for a while, Twain decided she was ready to give country music a go again. She went to Nashville to work on her debut album.

She said she tread lightly and although she arrived with a lot of personal material, her label decided it was not 'country' enough and brought in a host of other songwriters to work on the self-titled album, released in 2003.

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"I didn't cry about it. I accepted it," she said. "There's not really that much of my creative input in the album at all."

Her manager Mary Bailey said she did not think they, a female singer and manager duo, were taken that seriously by the predominately male meeting rooms of Nashville.

"You have to work three times as hard as the average guy in country music in order to get a shot. To be relentless was the only way... you have to half kill yourself to get there," Twain remembered.

She first realised the power of her creative input with the 'What Made You Say That' music video, her first ever, in which she pushed her own vision - which included her midriff - and angered CMT (Country Music Television). That would end up becoming an iconic part of her image.

The creative and personal partnership of Shania Twain and Mutt Lange.

Mutt Lange and Shania Twain married in 1993. Image: YouTube.

Acclaimed rock producer Mutt Lange, who had worked with bands like AC/DC and Def Leppard, saw the 'What Made You Say That' music video and reached out to Twain to collaborate.

She said the idea of Lange making her music sound like his previous work, "that would be the dream". She worried her label would drop her because her first album wasn't a massive success, but they backed her to work with Lange.

The pair also fell in love and married in December 1993, and became one of recorded music's most iconic partnerships.

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Lange allowed Twain the creative freedom to write and record her own music, which led to major success, first with her second album The Woman in Me, and then again with Come On Over, one of the top 10 best-selling albums of all time, which featured many of Twain's signature songs, including 'You're Still the One', 'That Don't Impress Me Much' and 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"

Shania Twain faced sexism and scepticism over Mutt Lange's impact on her career.

Twain said the biggest difference between her second and third albums was the intension: she wanted to graduate country, and make a splash on the world's stage.

She chose the song 'You're Still the One' as the song to launch her globally, which she'd written about her relationship with Lange. It was a major risk - a ballad - that paid off immensely, becoming a hit globally.

"When I wrote the song, I was thinking the age gap between Mutt and I, the world gap, the culture gap and I really did feel that a lot of people didn't believe in it," she recalled.

The documentary showed a number of interviews and questions Twain faced about what they believed was Lange's 'control' of her career and image.

"But of course if I had been a guy, it just would not have been seen the same way. It's a sexist point of view. There's no question about it," Twain said.

Shania Twain's feminism.

The documentary reflects on Twain's legacy for creating music with a strong female voice - especially the anthems 'That Don't Impress Me Much' and 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!'

"I think Shania takes these universal ideas... all these things that are universal topics for songwriting, and she makes them sound like they've never been written about before," country musician Kelsea Ballerini said.

"Of course, there's all these songs about feeling good as an empowered woman, but then there's 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!' you know what I mean? That's the song."

The 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!' music video. Image: Mercury Records/IMDb.

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Twain said she always felt like she had important things to say and that she wanted to be heard.

"I was always very bold and straightforward about what I thought, and my point of view on things as a woman particularly. My point on view in relationships, the way I felt that women should be treated, respected, and I still feel like same way so I'm just going to carry on with that message," she said.

"I'm the boss of me, man. I take responsibility for what I think, what I say, what I do and I'm not going to be pushed around, I'm not going to get bullied."

How Shania Twain got Lyme disease.

In 2003, Twain was touring to promote her fourth album, Up! when her entire life and career was changed by a tick bite she got while horseback riding.

"The tick was infected with Lyme disease, and I did get Lyme disease," Twain recalled. 

"My symptoms were quite scary because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy. I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was gonna fall off the stage, and the stage was quite high. So I was staying far from the edge, I was adjusting what I was doing.

"I was having these very, very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly, like every minute or every 30 seconds."

Twain said she got on top of all her Lyme disease symptoms, but her "voice was never the same again".

She felt like she'd lost control of her voice and was unable to continue making a follow-up album to Up!.

"I thought I'd lost my voice forever. I thought that was it. I would never, ever sing again," she said.

Twain believed it was a result of extreme stress - because at the same time as all this, another personal crisis emerged.

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Shania Twain and Mutt Lange's divorce.

In 2008, it was announced that Twain and Lange were separating after Lange had an affair with Twain's best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud.

"In that search to determine what was causing this lack of control with my voice and this change in my voice, I was facing a divorce. My husband leaves me for another woman," she said.

"Now I'm at a whole other low and I just don't see any point in going on with a music career."

Lange is not involved in the documentary at all, for obvious reasons. Twain is now married to Frédéric Thiébaud, Marie-Anne's former husband, who also does not feature.

Shania Twain and husband Frédéric Thiébaud in 2014. Image: Getty.

"When I lost Mutt I guess I thought that the grief of that was it was similarly intense to losing my parents. And, you know, it was like a death... A permanent end to so many facets of my life. And I never got over my parent's death, you know what I'm saying, so I'm thinking 'shit, I'm never going to get over this'. How do you get over that?

"All I can do is determine how I'm going to carry on from there. How am I going to crawl out of this hole that I've fallen in?"

Twain said she took baby steps. She began writing songs again, and in listening back to her recordings she heard "milliseconds" of "getting it".

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Lionel Richie helped her 'find her voice' again.

Shania Twain and Lionel Richie in 2019. Image: Getty.

As she struggled to recover from her voice loss, Lionel Richie got in touch to say he was making an album and he wanted Twain involved.

He didn't realise what was going on with her at the time, and for a long time she declined his offer. Eventually, she caved, and they agreed to meet to record in the Bahamas.

"She's trying to assure me that she can't do it," Richie recalled. 

"Lionel was not going to give up, and I knew it, but it was such a gentle, it was such a kind pressure. So I thought, if I fail I'd rather fail with somebody who is forgiving and sweet and kind about it," she said.

They went into the studio, and it was a success. From there, she built back the confidence in her voice.

"It took me a lot of encouragement from around me to get me truly doing it for real. Lionel Richie was a big part of that," she said, also namedropping Oprah Winfrey, Gladys Knight, David Foster and Michael Buble.

Shania Twain's career without Mutt Lange.

More than 10 years since she last performed, Twain launched a successful Las Vegas residency in 2014 and recorded a new album, the first since her divorce from Lange.

"It took a long time to be ready to write and record again. I was afraid to get back into the studio without Mutt, so it was really more about taking independence for myself and it was an exercise of saying 'okay, look, you can't just not ever make music again because you don't have Mutt. You've gotta just dive in' and I was petrified, I really was," she said.

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She wrote her fifth album, 2017's Now, all on her own. She said it is her favourite work.

Shania Twain's impact and legacy on music.

Not Just A Girl features musicians including Avril Lavigne, Kelsea Ballerini, Orville Peck and Diplo talking about the legacy of Twain, who knocked down walls between genres and sounds like no one before.

Taylor Swift and Shania Twain at the 2019 American Music Awards. Image: Getty.

The documentary features footage of Twain with artists from across the pop and country landscapes, including Post Malone, Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift.

"Shania never let where she was from, who she was, the fact that she was a woman, I don't think she ever let any of those things define what she wanted to do," Peck said. "Which was make art and make music, and do it her way."

Ballerini agreed: "She did it different. She really kicked that door open."

Not Just A Girl is streaming now on Netflix.

Feature image: Netflix/Getty.

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