The World Needs to Accept That Celine Dion Was Always Cool
The French-Canadian goddess ruled long before her fingers grazed the skin of a Bottega Veneta Intrecciato tote.
Illustration: Ashley Goodall
Last year, the internet discovered Celine Dion. It discovered her style, her charming but wonky use of language, her flailing limbs and her disinterest in knowing the words to her own songs. Well, really Celine had discovered Law Roach: the "image architect" who put her in a Vetements hoodie and created the meme-able style icon we all needed.
I love Celine Dion, I always have. I'm not totally sure when it started, but I'd guess The Colour Of Love first ensnared my heart. Being in pre-school, I didn't know what "The whispers in the morning, of lovers sleeping tight" meant, but I fucking loved it. Hell, 25 years later, listening to the song to pull a quote, I'm a mess. My god, "I am frightened, but I'm ready to love," what a line. Celine, you are a messenger from the gods of emotion.
For most of my life, this love has been a joke to my family and friends. When I was taping her pictures to my year 9 locker even my mum was like, "Wends, cool it." I heard all the Celine jokes: she looks like a chicken, she looks like a horse, her nasally French-Canadian quiver makes me want to explode in a cacophony of undirected violence. It was easy to shit on pre-Vogue-darling Celine. She was so earnest.
Obviously I didn't get it. I still believe she is one of the great beauties of our time. Those legs, are you kidding me? Yes, maybe she's a little horsey but I love her.
Despite the taunts, I have no bad blood to people who arrived late to the Celine party. That makeover might have been the best thing that happened in 2016. I had friends who had babies last year, and their births can't stand up to her colour blocking. But it pains me a little that for all the Instagram love, not everyone has fully awoken to the resplendent majesty of her work. Yes, she is pulling off some difficult hats, but what about the aching vulnerability that soaks through every lyric she's ever written? What about the reality that to listen to a Celine Dion song is to rip open your chest, bare your soul to the sky and scream, "IT HURTS TO FEEL THIS MUCH BUT MY GOD THIS IS THE CURSE AND GIFT OF BEING ALIVE."
As a lifelong-fan, I feel it's my duty to make sure her new fans are aware of her contributions to the human race before her fingers grazed the cool skin of a Bottega Veneta Intrecciato tote.
For a bit of background, Celine first came to the wider world's attention in 1988 when, for some reason, the French-Canadian represented Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest. She was only 20 but it was already clear she was special, everyone fucking loved her, and she won. To be clear, she was no ingenue. The youngest of 14 siblings, Celine has been performing with her musical family since she was five. Imagine some kind of a French Canadian Von Trapp situation. Four years after Eurovision she really broke through to the pop mainstream when she and Peabo Bryson performed the theme for Disney's 1992 hit Beauty and the Beast. Everyone loved that too, obviously.
But long before the rest of us got our shit together, Quebec was all about the Dion. At 12, one of her older brothers sent a demo of her singing with her mum to big shot manager Rene Angelil. He was so stoked on her he mortgaged his house to finance her debut album, La Voix du bon Dieu (The Voice of God). She was a French-Canadian household name before she was 18.
Something else kicked off before she was legal — her romance with her aforementioned manager. If you know anything about Celine, you might know what Rene, who was 38 and married when they met, eventually would become her husband. The story goes that when she was a teen, he would give her a goodnight kiss on the cheek every night. But one night when she was 17 that peck got upgraded to something more adult. The situation was straight up problematic, and the couple were always protective of that narrative and insistent everything was above board. No matter how it started, they were happily married for 22 years until Rene's death last year. They had three sons together. Hey, love is weird so let's just leave that there.
Less contentious around this time was her success: by the time Celine turned 18 she had recorded 9 albums in French. In those early days her English wasn't so hot, so she learned her songs phonetically. Flash-forward to now, she regularly performs in French, English, Spanish, German and Japanese.
The 90s were really Celine's decade: during this time she was the second-highest selling female musician in history after Mariah Carey — although, for the record, Rihanna has since outsold them both. Her mammoth success was driven by a seemingly non breaking wave of colossal hits that included "The Power of Love," "Because You Loved Me," "I'm Your Angel," "It's All Coming Back to me Now" and, of course, "My Heart Will Go On". All up, she's comfortably sold 200 million. But this shit pales in comparison to her real appeal — how extra she is.
Yes her style is epic now — but I would argue her look on the cover of Falling Into You is one of the century's most underrated outfits. Also, despite being a regular on Worst Outfits Of All Time lists, the white, backwards John Galliano tuxedo she wore to the 1999 Oscars deserves a Peabody award.
She's always been committed to this shit; she claims to own over 10,000 pairs of shoes that need to be stored in a specialty build warehouse. Also, her Florida home is attached to a private waterpark. That's not really related to anything else in this paragraph, but is a good indication that the woman knows how to live.
Talking about how to live: let's get to The Wedding. As an indication of her fame at the time of her 1994 nuptials, the ceremony was broadcast live in Canada. If that wasn't enough access, she and Rene held a press conference immediately after the vows. Like, didn't pose for photos or to go to the loo, they jumped straight into press tour. That is fan service.
Her Age of Innocence inspired, silk and fur outfit took over 1000 hours to make, involved a 20-foot train and a three kilo Swarovski-crystal tiara that was so heavy it needed to be sewn into her hair and caused visible bleeding. During the ceremony, fake snow fell from the ceiling. It wasn't all about her though; instead of gifts the couple suggested donations to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event raised a cool $200,000.
She obviously had a great time, because five years later they did it all again in an equally screenshot-able renewal ceremony. This time the action moved to Vegas' Caesars Palace — Celine had a residency there, so I assume got a good price. The Arabian Nights theme was in honour of René's Syrian and Lebanese roots; they converted the hotel's chapel into an Arabian mosque for the event. As you can image for a Celine Dion planned, Middle Eastern themed, early 2000s wedding, there was a whole lot of gold, eyeliner, jugglers, musicians, singers, camels and exotic birds. The couple were carried in on sofa beds, smoked hookahs, and danced like they were in a Bangles video. In another demonstration of her eternal style, she wore a gold Givenchy gown and looked like the goddess she is.
Over 1400 words into this article, and I honestly could write for the rest of the year. We could unpack her astute business mind, her commitment to charity, her dedication to her family and how she put everything on hold to personally nurse her sick husband at the end of his life. But honestly, please just watch the video clip for "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," it says so much more than I ever could.
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