Celine Dion: How The Canadian Singer Became A Global Sensation

Céline Dion has achieved levels of international fame throughout her career that few artists could ever hope to reach. The French Canadian singer first found success as a teenager in the '80s. With her larger-than-life vocals and performance style, it didn't take long for the young singer to find international fame. Her iconic performances on the titular song in "Beauty and the Beast" and "My Heart Will Go On" in "Titanic" have given her certified legend status.

Even though Dion remains one of the biggest musical stars in the world to this day, her road to fame and fortune wasn't quite as clear cut as it may seem. From her humble beginnings in small-town Quebec to her brushes with tragedy, hers has been a sometimes bumpy road. Nevertheless, she has risen above it all and come out stronger than ever. Here is the stunning transformation of Céline Dion.

Céline Dion grew up in Charlemagne, Quebec in a large family of modest means

Céline Dion was born on March 30, 1968, in the small town of Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada to Adhémar and Thérese Dion. Things weren't exactly easy for the Dion family, but they were a resilient, optimistic troop. Dion was the youngest of 14 children. "We didn't have much money," the singer told Woman's Weekly, "but I never considered us to be poor because my parents were great survivors and they instilled that in me too."

By the sounds of things, her parents certainly did make the best of a difficult (or at least a crowded) situation. She recalled to Vanity Fair, "My mum was brilliant enough to put a pillow in a drawer for a baby to sleep in. We were safe and warm and taken care of." For Dion and her sisters, the lack of money was never an issue. As she put it, "We were given love and affection and support. What else did we need?"

Céline Dion grew up in a very musical home and was inspired by her siblings

While kindness and support were a huge part of Céline Dion's upbringing, another important feature of her upbringing was music. As she once revealed on "Lorraine," her love for singing began at an early age. When asked how she spent her childhood, she replied, "I was on the kitchen table, because that was my stage and I was singing for my brothers and sisters."

Apparently, this type of behavior was pretty ordinary in the Dion household. In fact, as the singer explained to Elle, she and her siblings performed as a troop, much like the kids in "The Sound of Music," even when she was a baby.

As Dion once told People, her mother's musical talent was a particular inspiration to her as a child. "She was a great musician, and she loved to sing," she recalled. In fact, her mother even wrote her first song!

At 12 years old, Céline Dion's mother sent a tape of her singing to music manager René Angélil

Even though Céline Dion grew up in a crowded, busy house filled with music and musicians, her talent stood out from the beginning. In fact, Dion's mother, Thérese, was so taken with her youngest's powerhouse pipes, she wrote Céline a song, "Ce N'etait Qu'un Reve," which she recorded and promptly sent to the Quebec-based music manager René Angélil.

Angélil was, quite understandably, blown away by the young girl's singing ability. As Dion once told People, she was invited to audition for him in person. "While I was singing, he started to cry," she recalled. "I knew then I had done a good job" (via Good Housekeeping).

Of course, meeting Angélil was a momentous turning point in Dion's life. Not only did he go on to become her lifelong manager, he eventually became her husband.

Céline Dion released her debut album in 1981 at just 13 years old

Even though René Angélil was an established manager, he had a hard time finding financial backing for Céline Dion, his new protégé. So, as the Montreal Gazette reported, he cut ties with all of his other clients, mortgaged his house, and financed her first album himself.

After he financed her album, Céline Dion made her professional debut in the music industry at the age of 13 with the album "La Voix du Bon Dieu." As stated in a biography on the Governor General of Canada's website, the French album quickly made her a star in Quebec and in other French nations around the world.

For Dion, becoming a professional, recognized singer was a dream come true. As she told the Montreal Gazette, "The only dream I ever had was to be famous and to sing all my life and travel all over the world performing." With her first album's success, she was well on her way.

Céline Dion started secretly dating René Angélil and eventually married him

As we've already mentioned, René Angélil became a hugely important figure in Céline Dion's life. Not only did he help her realize her dreams of becoming a professional singer, he also developed a romantic relationship with her as she got older.

As she explained to "Access Hollywood," "So maybe at 17, 18 years old, my feelings started to change for him. I kind of saw him differently." Apparently, her mom found out early on and tried to stop the relationship from happening because of the 26-year age gap and Angélil's complicated relationship history. But, eventually, she gave in. "She had no choice," Dion said. "Love won."

According to Good Housekeeping, Dion was 19 years old when she and Angélil went on their first real date; however, it was another five years before the couple went public with their relationship in a message in the notes of Dion's album, "The Color of My Love." The pair married in 1994 in an extravagant affair that was broadcast on Canadian television.

Céline Dion's marriage to René Angélil was clearly right for her. As she later told Vanity Fair in 2012, he was "the first and only man of my life."

She secured a thrilling win at the 1988 Eurovision

In the Eurovision Song Contest history, the year 1988 is etched in gold: Not only for catapulting Céline Dion into global stardom, but also for broadcasting one of the most exciting finales the long-running singing competition has seen. Twenty-one countries competed for the top spot that year at the event hosted in Dublin. Dion, then a 20-year-old from Canada, was not a fluent English speaker, and joined the international contest as a Swiss entry (per the RTE Archives). Switzerland hadn't secured a single victory since its first win at Eurovision's inaugural competition in 1956. The pressure on Dion was apparently intense! 

Aside from the hesitation of representing Switzerland as a non-native, Dion also had money riding on her: "So my husband [and former manager René Angélil] who is a gambler, bet on me. A lot of money, and I felt like I was a horse and I needed to race," she revealed (via Smooth Radio). Dion performed the French song "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi" and landed in a neck-and-neck showdown against the United Kingdom's entry. Presenter Pat Kenny joked during the finale that the script that night had been written by Agatha Christie. Per Eurovision, the U.K. was leading with 136 points before Yugoslavia cast their votes and, in a hair-raising moment, took Switzerland from 131 to 137 points. The win brought Dion "a lot of chocolate," as she told Smooth Radio — and effectively launched her international career. 

Céline Dion found international fame when she performed the title track of Beauty and the Beast

While Céline Dion's career was definitely gaining momentum throughout the '80s, it wasn't until her famed appearance on the "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack that she really set things in motion. When Dion sang the title song with Peabo Bryson, she was suddenly a bonafide international star, picking up her first Grammy Award for her performance and even performing at the Oscars.

In a 2012 interview for Entertainment Tonight, Dion explained just how important the song had been for her. "This song gave me a name in a way," she said. She went on to explain that while she had recently started singing in English, few English listeners knew who she was. "Beauty and the Beast," she said, "put me on the map."

Years later, Dion performed another song called "How Does a Moment Last Forever" for the live-action remake of the movie. As she explained to Entertainment Tonight, she was "in love" with the first movie. Plus, she acknowledged how important the song had been for her career. "'Beauty and the Beast' had brought me to where I am today," she said.

Throughout the '90s, Céline Dion's fame grew until her iconic performance on the Titanic soundtrack

It seems that the '90s was all about singing on movie soundtracks for Céline Dion. After her iconic turn on the "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack, Dion cemented herself as one of the most iconic singers of the decade with the epic "My Heart Will Go On" from the "Titanic" soundtrack. As The Atlantic pointed out, the song became "imprinted on the movie's legacy."

As Dion explained in an interview for the American Film Institute, she was approached by the songwriter James Horner about singing the song. After he explained how the song would fit into the touching scenes of the sinking Titanic, Dion sang a demo of the song. "It felt incredible," she recalled. When James Cameron, the director of the film, heard the song, Dion said, "He fell in love with it." Of course, the rest is history. The song became "synonymous" with the movie, as Billboard put it. Plus, it kept the movie's soundtrack in the number one position for 16 weeks after its release!

Becoming a mother is what Céline Dion calls her greatest achievement

Céline Dion had three kids with René Angélil — Rene-Charles in 2001 and twin boys Eddy and Nelson in 2010. Having children hadn't been easy for Dion and Angélil. She ended up using in-vitro fertilization for both of her pregnancies, so when Rene-Charles was finally born, it was a huge joy and relief. As her obstetrician told People, "Everybody was just crying tears of joy." Their friend, David Foster, added, "This was their dream. It's bigger than any hit record, bigger than anything for them."

By the sounds of things, Dion really was overjoyed to become a mother. In an interview with Woman's Weekly, she revealed, "My greatest reward is my children." She went on, "Unless you are a mum you don't know what you're missing or what it even is really. It felt for me that with all my children another heart grew inside of me." She added that while the umbilical cord was physically cut with each of her children's births, she felt that the strong tie remained. As she put it, "Once you're a mum you're a mum for life."

She went through in-vitro fertilization to get pregnant

Céline Dion has never shied away from talking about her experiences with in vitro fertilization (IVF). The singer, who shares three sons with late husband René Angélil, went through a long wait before embracing motherhood. She had been an international celebrity for about a decade when she took a sabbatical from singing in 1999, with the intention of starting a family (via Tampa Bay Times). Dion underwent fertility treatments and chose IVF as her means to pregnancy. René-Charles was born in 2001 after six years of trying, per People. At the time, Dion revealed there were plans to expand their family further, since a second embryo awaited the couple in New York, ABC News reported. 

Parenthood the second time around was a longer haul for Dion and Angélil. "You know what? We had a miscarriage. We tried three more times. It did not work. ... But I have — I have — to try," Dion said in 2010 (per People). It reportedly took the singer six rounds of IVF to get pregnant with the embryos she had frozen eight years prior, before twins Nelson and Eddy were born in 2011. "There's nothing that can top being a mother," the singer said, calling motherhood a "blessing." Though she clearly dotes on her sons, Dion has expressed a desire to have a daughter too: "It's selfish to keep wanting more, although I would love a girl." 

Céline Dion took two breaks from her career to focus on her family

After Céline Dion gave birth to her twins, she took a four-year break from her career to take care of her family. This first career break began after she'd had twins and her husband, René Angélil, was diagnosed with throat cancer (via BBC). She returned to her career in 2011 with her Las Vegas show.

Then, in 2014, Dion announced another break. Her husband, René Angélil, had been struggling with throat cancer and had recently undergone a serious operation. Dion wrote on her website, "I want to devote every ounce of my strength and energy to my husband's healing and, to do so, it's important for me to dedicate this time to him and to our children" (via The Telegraph). The decision to take a break meant cutting her Las Vegas residency short and canceling a planned tour of Asia.

Céline Dion spent years in Las Vegas, which gave her stability

After years of touring the world, Céline Dion eventually found some stability by taking up a residency in Las Vegas. Her show "A New Day" opened in 2003 in Vegas and ran successfully for five years. Dion seemed to be a perfect fit for the city. In fact, as of 2019, the show was still the most financially successful the city had ever seen. At first, Dion told Elle, the concept of taking up a residency in Las Vegas worried her fans and colleagues. "People thought we were absolutely bazooka for performing here!" she said.

However, the residency proved to be a huge success. For Dion, it meant some semblance of a stable family life, as she told CBS Watch (via People). By 2019, Dion was settled in Las Vegas. "I'm not even thinking about leaving," she told Elle. "I think I can stay as long as I want, if Las Vegas will want me to stay." Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Dion ended her eight-year Vegas residency in 2019.

Céline Dion's husband and manager, René Angélil, died in 2016

In 2016, Céline Dion's husband and manager, René Angélil, died. Dion was heartbroken. In 2021, she posted a moving tribute to her late husband on the five-year anniversary of his death. As she confessed to The Sun, "I think I will probably grieve for the rest of my life." And as she told "Today" several years later, she had no plans of finding someone new. "I don't date," she said. "I'm not ready to date."

However, as she told Q on CBC in 2019, she was able to get through the difficult time with courage: "Losing the father of my children, my husband, my manager, the person that I love the most in the world and the person that I can rely upon without questioning anything since I'm 12 years old — losing that person was a big deal on me." In 2019, Dion released the album "Courage". As she explained of the titular song on the album, "I don't think a song could have been written more appropriately than this one at this time of my life, taking charge of my inner strength."

Over the years, Céline Dion developed her own unique fashion sense

While Céline Dion is primarily known for her unforgettable voice, the singer has also made a name for herself as something of a trendsetter. As Elle reported, the singer discovered the stylist Law Roach through his work with Zendaya on Instagram. He famously dressed her in a "Titanic" hoodie worth $885, which was a huge hit online. Since then, Roach has helped Dion come up with multiple futuristic, daring looks.

As "Good Morning America" reported in 2019, Dion was consistently topping best dressed lists and had even announced plans to build a "fashion playground" in her home. In another interview for "Good Morning America," Dion, who launched a gender-neutral clothing line for kids in 2018, opened up about her style. "I dress for me, the way I feel," she said. "I want to feel that I feel great about myself, I feel strong about myself, I feel good about my decisions with the help of a lot of people." One thing's for sure — this star's unique fashion sense is hard to ignore!

Céline Dion has become an icon for younger generations

Even though Céline Dion's fame peaked in the '90s, she certainly hasn't faded out of the public's consciousness. In fact, in more recent years, she's enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with the younger generations. As The Telegraph reported in 2017, Dion has become a timeless icon with age. As the publication pointed out, Dion had been ridiculed as over the top for many years. However, when her husband passed away, people began to take her sweeping, emotional ballads more seriously. Dion's extravagant lifestyle and performance style have also contributed to her icon status.

And as Elle noted, her fans have been able to form a sense of community on social media, where Dion has begun sharing more of her exciting life. While Dion was once obsessed with her work, she has become more easy-going and spends more time enjoying life. "Now," she said, "I am discovering myself more and more. I am a woman assuming her own destiny, full of energy and in love with life." It's no wonder a whole new generation of fans have found her zest for life so infectious.

In 2018, Céline Dion turned 50 — and felt better than ever

Céline Dion turned 50 in 2018 — and instead of slowing down, she sped up. As she revealed to The Sun, "To be honest with you, I think I'm at the best of my life right now and I really want to enjoy and embrace every moment of it." She added, "It's all new. It's like I'm having a second wind — 50 has been great for me." As Dion went on to explain, she hadn't forgotten the memory of her late husband, Rene Angelil — "he's always within me," she said.

However, with her new lease on life and her new independence, she'd been able to forge her own exciting new path as a fashion icon, a business woman, and, of course, a singing superstar. One thing's crystal clear — Dion is just getting started, and we're sure to see a whole lot more of her in the future.

She lost her brother Daniel just days after her husband's death

2016 couldn't have been an easy year for Céline Dion, who lost both her husband and brother in quick succession. Merely two days after Dion's husband René Angélil died of cancer on January 14, the singer's brother Daniel Dion also passed away from the disease. According to a family statement, Daniel had a condition similar to that of Angélil, who had lived with throat cancer for years (per CNN). Daniel spent his final days at a palliative care center in Quebec. Despite the public nature of his sister's profession, he apparently preferred being away from the spotlight, and was described as "a gentle and reserved man of many talents" (per The Guardian). 

Dion reportedly skipped Daniel's funeral, held just days after Angélil's, where the family had all assembled to grieve. Entertainment Tonight reported that the mother of three was too overwhelmed to publicly mourn the loss of another family member. Daniel was the eighth of 14 children, while the "Think Twice" hitmaker was the youngest of the lot and close to all her siblings. Opening up about the twin tragedies, Dion told People: "René escorted my brother. ... He took him under his wings." She dealt with the loss by moving forward: "You cannot stop living," she said, adding that she had grown to become stronger over the years (via "Good Morning America"). 

She took up ballet

Céline Dion is not refusing to dance anymore! The best-selling singer has found a newfound passion in ballet — and she has never felt better. "Dancing has been in my DNA all of my life. ... I do this [ballet practice] four times a week," she told People. Dion, who trains with friend and dancer Pepe Muñoz, reportedly took up the craft after the death of her longtime partner René Angélil in 2016. Becoming a ballerina, however, had been a girlhood dream for Dion. "I think ballet is so romantic, dramatic, sensual, it's like a dream and it's so hard," she explained (via L'Oreal). Dion's dedication to dance is one of her keys to fitness and the results are on display for all to see. The songstress once shared a video of herself sliding into a full split with jaw-dropping ease.

Dion's slender frame has been a characteristic feature since forever, but in recent years, many on social media have called attention to her apparently drastic drop in weight. "Is there anything wrong about my body," she quipped (per Entertainment Tonight). Dion has explained her thinness as a result of genetics and physical activity, telling fans concerned about her health that everything was fine. As for the body shaming that comes her way, Dion couldn't care less and only has this to say to her detractors: "If you like it, I'll be there. If you don't, leave me alone" (per The Sun).

She canceled a spate of shows between 2021 and 2022 owing to her health

Céline Dion's musical abilities have been on glorious public display for over four decades now, her crowd-pulling Las Vegas residencies among the most successful acts in her career. The grand show that originally began at the Caesars Palace in 2003 came to revolutionize celebrity entertainment in Vegas and made Dion Sin City's "favorite local" (per the Los Angeles Times). Fun fact: The iconic Colosseum theatre at Caesars was built specially for Dion's debut show! After a magnificent run of 16 years, Dion's residency concluded in 2019. She was due to return to Vegas in 2021 for a new lineup, which was hyped as her homecoming of sorts. But a statement announced that, owing to health issues, she wouldn't be able to perform. 

"I'm heartbroken by this," the singer expressed, with the update noting that she was suffering from "severe and persistent muscle spasms." Fans were gripped with concern again when further news came of Dion's North American and European tour dates in 2022 being delayed too. The singer said that though she had hoped to be back on stage by then, the recovery process was slow. She told fans via a video message, "I need to be in top shape when I'm on stage. I honestly can't wait, but I'm just not there yet." Dion's sister said that the singer's health issues were not serious and she was in good spirits (per Hello! Magazine). 

She is all set to make her acting debut in 2023

Céline Dion acquired showbiz royalty status with her 1997 magnum opus "My Heart Will Go On," which continues to be recognized as the sound of James Cameron's "Titanic." Despite her long tryst with the movies, the Grammy-winning artist never stepped into acting — until now. In November 2022, Dion confirmed via social media that she would be seen in a romcom titled "Love Again." Marking her official feature debut, Dion will reportedly star alongside Priyanka Chopra and Sam Heughan in the film set for release in 2023. The film was announced back in 2020, per Deadline, and was tentatively called "Text For You." The outing was then known as "It's All Coming Back to Me," before finally being promoted as "Love Again" (via Variety).  

Appearing as herself in the film, the singer will reportedly play a key role in aligning love between the two leads and is also providing music to the project. On working with Dion, Heughan gushed on Andy Cohen's show: "She's incredible, not only in the movie. And she's really good and extremely funny." 

Dion, meanwhile, is someone who believes success is made up of a lot more than just the artist. "I think talent is not enough. You need the timing, the hard work, the people around you," she once opined (via CBC). That leaves little doubt that Dion will deliver before the camera just as well as she does before the mic!