My 90s Icon - Shania Twain
My husband often jokes that, despite being born in the early 1980s, that I was actually hatched from a petri dish when I was about 25 years old. He says my absolute ignorance of most pop culture from the 80s and 90s is astonishing, given that in 1999 I was 16 years old.
It is true that I sort of sheltered myself away from popculture. I blame myself because when I look at my sister who is 3 years younger than me, she was quite immersed in the 1990s music and movies, is very aware and has memories of them. So it wasn't my parents who kept us from it - it was my own blissful ignorance. I was a nerd, I read books, wrote poetry and worked a lot of hours as a teenager. I had no idea what other kids were doing!
However, I did have female role models, as we all did, and I had posters on my wall. I loved country music back then, and so there were several females who stood out to me that I admired. Many of them did not really stand the test of time in my eyes. Certain ladies like Faith Hill stopped appealing to me before I even reached adulthood. One I recall, Mindy McCready, sadly went on to live a troubled life and committed suicide a number of years ago. However, one that has always sort of never failed to capture my interest - alongside women like Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock - is Shania Twain.
I think of this now as Shania is making a reemergence as she is taking her second Las Vegas residency at this time. Shania is now 54 years old, but when I first heard of her she was 28 or 29 years old. Due to protective content laws in Canada that requires Canadian networks to play a heavy saturation of Canadian content, it was a relief when Canadian Shania Twain came along filling out radios with actual enjoyable songs. She was young, pretty and feisty, and of course I fell in love with that.
The funny thing is at the time I think I didn't really realize the impact it had. I do recall when I was about 14 or 15, the country news and radio were buzzing with how "edgy" and borderline scandalous Shania Twain was - singing her sassy songs and showing us her midriff. I remember being puzzled by this. Yes, Shania showed her belly button in her videos - but Gwen Stefani was also doing so on MTV? And yes, Shania's songs were a bit sassy, but with lines like "if you're not in it for love, I'm outta here" you hardly got the idea that she was promoting promiscuous behavior.
What perhaps I did not realize then that I can see clearly now was that up until that point, females had a hard time using their own sex appeal to sell their brand, at least in country music. It had been done, yes, but few and far between had managed it. However, men had very successfully used the sex appeal of women to sell their brand. I recall Little Texas, a band I still love and hold no grudge against, but they were a bunch of men with women in bikinis in their videos. That was perfectly fine. But Shania is using her own image to sell her own brand? Stop right there, young lady.
Nothing about Shania's image, music or behavior in the 1990s or ever since has been anything other than almost wholesome. There were never stories of her getting drunkenly out of cars and flashing the cameras. She was married when she gained popularity and seemed quite happily so - to her dismay it was her husband who left her many years later for another woman. The lyrics of her songs, if they sexualized anything at all, it was monogamy. When Come On Over came out in 1997, Shania sang and danced her way through videos promoting female empowerment, loyalty to one's partner, and romanticizing love songs.
Shania took a very long break from music in the early 2000's - 15 full years. In 2017, she finally came back and released Now, a compilation of songs that addressed some of the painful events of her adult life, such as her divorce, and then the sweetness of finding love again. She is not 30 anymore, either. But she is a grown woman, still feisty, still fit, and still full of energy. Still a great role model.
I love seeing posts on social media where she is praising and celebrating the successes of the women who came behind her. I think that is always a sign of a truly empowered woman - one that isn't afraid to celebrate the success of another.
Side note: I very much loved Shania in the leopard print in the video for That Don't Impress Me Much, and if I ever get that fit before I get too old to pull that off, you better believe I am getting that outfit!