With hits like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” Shania Twain has created some of country music’s biggest empowerment anthems for women.
She’s doubling down on those themes of self-love and self-acceptance with her upcoming Queen of Me album, a project she says is a statement of self-confidence. “I want to carry a clear message, particularly as a woman, to always remember my power and I hope the songs are a reminder to you, of that same power inside you!” she said when she announced the album.
But the singer didn’t always feel comfortable in her own skin. As a kid, she suffered physical and sexual abuse from her since-deceased stepfather, Jerry Twain.
“I hid myself and I would flatten my boobs,” Shania tells The Sunday Times, speaking about how she tried to defend herself from the abuse. “I would wear bras that were too small for me, play it down until there was nothing girl about me. Make it easier to go unnoticed.”
Twain adopted Shania and her four siblings when she was just 4 years old. The family dealt with financial insecurity while she was growing up, and Shania experienced unwanted sexual attention both at home and outside of it. “I was ashamed to be a girl,” she says.
“It was terrible,” she adds in the interview. “You didn’t want to be a girl in my house.”
Shania’s mother and stepfather died in a car accident in 1987; as a young artist, she performed at a resort hotel to support her family. Confidence didn’t come naturally to her after her early trauma, but she slowly found ways to “appreciate” her body, she recounts.
Shania is now the founder of the Shania Kids Can Foundation, which supports children affected by poverty.
If you are affected by abuse and needing support, or know someone who is, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).You can also chat online at thehotline.org or online.rainn.org, respectively.