Céline Dion is dancing. Arms in the air, dancing. Her energy is boundless. No one on the ELLE shoot has ordered Céline to strut her stuff like this, she’s doing it because that’s just her.
She’s a show girl, a woman possessed by music, someone who commands the stage, who sings along to every single track. The only time she grants herself a quick break is when there’s an outfit change.
Queen’s We Will Rock You blasts out through the studio, and the singer assumes her position once more, back arched, stilettoed feet stomping to the beat, fists thumping the air. Céline Dion simply never stops. Along with some 20 other onlookers, I am standing at the back of the photo studio, transfixed.
This Céline should come as no surprise whatsoever. Having released her first English album in 1990, she’s since sold more than 220 million copies worldwide, won five Grammy awards, and this year will end her second Las Vegas residency, which has been the highest-grossing of all time.
But now, at 51, she’s starting over. This time, as an icon of couture fashion, an Instagram star, a new member of the team of L’Oréal ambassadors, and all this while she works on a brand-new album – prepare to feel exhausted.
You’ve become an Instagram star, and your new look has attracted a new fanbase. Tell us about your love for all things fashion.
I see fashion as an art form, and it’s a massively important part of my work, particularly when I’m on stage. Clothes can help you feel strong, romantic or empowered, depending on the song you’re interpreting.
You triumphed in Las Vegas for more than 10 years – are you sad to leave
There’s definitely something bittersweet about leaving Caesars Palace. I was initially supposed to stay for just two months, then two years, and I’m still there! It was the dream that René [Angélili – Dion’s late husband] and I shared. Our twins were born there. René-Charles [Céline’s eldest son] was just one when I started, so the place holds lots of memories for me… A chapter is ending, but I may well continue living in Vegas, even if I no longer work there.
You seem to be really embracing a new life.
At 51, it’s as though I’m starting over. It’s like I’m a one-year-old again. And I’ve got heaps of projects on the go: I’ve got three children to manage – one 18-year-old teenager who’s amazing, and eight-and-a-half-year-old twins. I’m doing shows, albums, fashion weeks, I visit Paris…
I’m finally allowing myself to truly experience life to the full. When I was slightly younger, I did nothing but practise. My vocal cords ruled my life. I was just… a singer. Now, I’m enjoying just being me, exploring what I want to do next. It’s never too late to start, and today I feel as though I’m living the best years of my life!
It’s now been three years since René passed away. How has your grief changed over that time? Are the fond memories beginning to eclipse the feelings of sadness?
My feelings change each day. It’s certainly hard – I lost the love of my life… [She pauses for a moment, before continuing.] But actually I’m doing just great because I get to see my husband every single day through the eyes of my children. I have three extraordinary boys through whom he lives on, just in a different way. He’s part of me, he sings with me, I know he’s always by my side.
Do you have a favourite item of clothing or a piece you refuse to get rid of?
You’ve just put your finger on a real problem that I have – one of global proportions. I’ve got nothing but pieces like that, and I hang on to everything! I love every single item in my wardrobe, because each one is linked to a specific time in my life.
I keep absolutely everything that I wear. Thankfully, I have people to help me note down what I wear for each event or performance. I’ve had to sort out secure storage where I keep every item I’ve worn since the very first day of my career. And I really do mean Every. Single. Item!
If you could only keep three items of clothing, what would they be?
Oooh, that’s cruel, but I’ll give it a go. The first dress my mum made me. It was sky blue with tiny white flowers, for my brother Michel’s wedding – he is also my godfather. I’d keep my wedding dress, of course, and the little black dress I wore to my husband’s funeral. He loved that dress.
You have recently become one of L’Oréal’s ambassadors. What attracted you to the role?
I could never have imagined that I would even be on such an iconic and historic brand’s radar. Just look at the women who L’Oréal works with! Stunning, not to mention committed.
I said to myself: ‘OK, my life started over at 50, I feel strong, I feel happy, I feel beautiful, and it’s such an honour for me, for my friends, for my kids, for my future’. I thought, ‘I must have done something right for this to be happening.’ You simply can’t turn down an offer like that.
How does it feel to be seen as a role model?
I never think about it, but I guess if the example I set shows that you can be an artist as well as a mother, you can love fashion and have fun without going totally overboard… I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t care less what other people think, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I think I can allow myself to make my own decisions and be at one with the choices I make. Telling other women that they, too, have self-worth and they are strong is obviously really important, and that’s L’Oréal’s message.
What would you say to the young Céline who was bullied at school?
I’d say: ‘Hang in there, everything will work out just fine.’ The image that springs to mind is Vanessa Paradis. She was my idol, in her jeans and low-cut T-shirts, at a time when I had so many inhibitions and covered myself up from the neck down. It’s funny, because nowadays I’m exposing more and more flesh. Bullying can start at an early age and have terrible consequences.
Talking is key, and friends and family need to pay attention because youngsters won’t necessarily seek help themselves. It’s up to us as parents, friends and teachers to keep our eyes and hearts open. If there are changes in what the person is eating, if they change their habits or start losing their hair, if they’re becoming withdrawn, it’s important to ask them questions, encourage them to open up, dig deeper.
Any advice for women who lack self-confidence?
They have two choices: you can let life pass you by or grab it by the throat and live it. My mum serves as my example. She brought up 14 children but never had the opportunity to get an education or to choose to do something else with her life. We’re lucky to be living in an age when women finally have the opportunity to carve out their own path.
We must strive to find inner strength to show others who we really are. I’m convinced that every one of us has a story that’s yet to be told, played out, a dream that has never been accomplished, no matter what it may be.
Which track should we listen to for inner strength?
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – respect yourself!
Do you see yourself as an activist?
I wouldn’t call myself an activist. But the world is changing, and stereotypes still cause so much hurt, so many deaths, even. Everyone needs to find their own path, love themselves for who they are. We need to accept those who are different; they have so much to teach us.
It’s rumoured that your next album is going to be a collaboration with David Guetta…
Nice try! Unfortunately, there’s nothing to tell you, because nothing has been decided. I must have been sent 675 tracks, and I’d love to record them all. I’m happier than ever to still be making albums; I’m much more involved in my projects than I used to be. I’ve got the energy and drive, but I need time, which will come as no surprise, having told you that I’m a one-year-old!
This article first appeared on ELLE.