On March 30th, 1968, a star was born in Quebec by the name of Céline Dion. After performing as much as she could during the first ten years of her life, she launched her music career at the age of just 12 years old. She recorded a total of nine albums in her native French language over the next six years before taking a brief hiatus and returning with the aim of breaking into the English-speaking world.
She certainly managed to do so and has since become a household name around the globe. Her life, however, has been anything but ordinary – and her huge professional success has not come without some significant setbacks in life. Through her difficult childhood to being propelled to fame at a young age, then experiencing the grief of losing loved ones, Céline Dion has proved she is much more than just a famous singer.
Céline Marie Claudette Dion was born in Charlemagne, Quebec – a town approximately 24 kilometers northeast of Montreal. She was the youngest of 14 children born to Thérèse, who was a homemaker, and Adhémar, a butcher – and music was already a big part of the Dion family when Céline came along.
In fact, she was named after the song “Céline” by French singer-songwriter Hugues Aufray, which had been recorded just two years before her birth. This ended up being one of Aufray’s best-known songs of his entire career, and it was even translated into English some years later.
The Dion family had very little money, and with so many children in the family, the house was always very overcrowded. “We were three, four in the same bed, I did not have a bedroom,” Céline once told CBS News.
“Up the stairs, before going in the bedrooms, there was a little ramp. And my bed was there. So everybody went up, they saw me, and I could wave goodbye and goodnight.” However, Céline doesn’t recall a troubled or particularly difficult childhood. “We were given love and affection and support,” she told Vanity Fair. “What else did we need?”
Céline didn’t have a particularly enjoyable time at school during her younger years. In fact, she was bullied by fellow pupils and called “vampire” on account of the shape of her teeth and her skinny frame. This was to be something that would follow her when she first became known for her music, with local tabloids dubbing her “Canine Dion.”
She often ran home from school to play music with her brothers and sisters. “I detested school,” Céline later wrote in her autobiography. “I had always lived surrounded by adults and children a lot older than me. I learned everything I needed to know from them. As far as I was concerned, real-life existed around them.”
When Céline was just a toddler, her parents formed a singing group called “Dion’s Family,” consisting of some of their children. This marked the start of Céline’s passion for music – and, at the age of five, on August 13th, 1973, she made her first public appearance on stage at her brother Michael’s wedding.
She performed a song called “Du fil des Aiguilles et du Coton” by Christine Charbonneau and mesmerized the congregation. After that, Céline knew she wanted to be on stage again – and her family could see that she had an incredibly promising talent that could not be ignored.
Soon after, Céline’s parents opened up a piano bar named “Le Vieux Baril” (“The Old Barrel”), where they allowed Céline and her siblings to perform for customers. This only encouraged Céline’s interest and passion for music and performance – although she states that her mother was one of her greatest inspirations.
Céline describes Thérèse as “a great musician” who “loved to sing” – and this love was certainly passed down to her youngest daughter. Recalling later in an interview with People magazine, Céline said, “I had one dream: I wanted to be a singer.”
At just 12 years old, Céline wrote and composed her first song, “Ce n’était qu’un rêve” (“It Was Only a Dream” or “Nothing But a Dream”), with the help of her mother and brother Jacques. Her brother Michael then sent the recording to music manager René Angélil – a name he had found on the back of an album by Ginette Reno.
According to reports, René was moved to tears by Céline’s powerful, beautiful voice and decided then and there that he would make this child a global star. However, there was just one problem – he was a relatively small-time music manager and simply didn’t have the funds to help her produce a commercial album.
René was determined, however, to stay true to his word and came up with a solution: mortgaging his home in 1981 in order to fund her first record, “La Voix du Bon Dieu.” It went to number one in Quebec and made her a star immediately in the region.
In 1982, Céline traveled to Tokyo, Japan, to compete in the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and won the “Top Performer” musician’s award, as well as “Best Song” with “Tellement J’ai d’Amour Pour Toi.” This resulted in her popularity spreading beyond Quebec, and she was one step closer to becoming a star.
Just one year later, in 1983, Céline won multiple Félix Awards, including “Discovery of the Year” and “Best Female Performer.” She also became the first Canadian artist to have a gold record in France, which was for the single “D’amour ou d” amitié.” Her success was continuing; however, she hadn’t yet had that big break that René knew she needed.
At age 18, Céline saw Michael Jackson in concert and told René that she wanted to be as big a star as he was. It was a bold statement to make, and René was slightly taken aback. Although he was confident in her talent, he was dubious that she had the right image to make it big worldwide.
Something had to be done – and Céline was willing to do whatever it took. As a result, she receded from the spotlight for a while, seemingly taking a step back from her music career. In fact, for a number of months, she underwent extensive dental surgery in order to improve her appearance.
René also realized that, if Céline was to be an international star like Michael Jackson, she would have to become write songs and perform in English – but, unfortunately, her English skills weren’t great. Consequently, she went to the École Berlitz to improve her language skills accordingly.
After Céline had learned English to a satisfactory level, she released an album named “Unison” – her debut into the Anglophone market. It went down extremely well with critics, with Entertainment Weekly writing that her vocals were “tastefully unadorned” and that she didn’t “attempt to bring off styles that are beyond her.”
The album “Unison” was cited as “a fine, sophisticated American debut” by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, and one of the songs – “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” – made it to number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 – Céline’s first US top-10 hit. It was to be the first of many.
“Unison,” however – despite its success – was not Céline’s real international breakthrough. It was her duet with Peabo Bryson that propelled her to stardom – the title track to Disney’s animated movie “Beauty and the Beast.” Unexpectedly, it became the breakthrough single that Céline had been striving for.
The song won an Academy Award for “Best Song,” and Céline won her first Grammy Award for “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.” It went on to be the lead single on Céline’s self-titled album, released in 1992 – which was certified diamond in Canada and double platinum in the US.
It was around this time that Céline and René started to realize that their manager-artist relationship was becoming more than strictly professional. Despite Céline still being young and René being 26 years her senior, they were beginning to fall for each other. She later revealed all in her autobiography, “My Story, My Dream.”
“He avoided being alone with me for too long a time,” she wrote. Referring to a photograph of René, she continued: “Before I fell asleep, I slipped it under the pillow, out of fear that my mother, who always shared a room with me, would find it. Less and less could I hide from myself the fact that I was in love with Rene; I had all the symptoms.”
“I was in love with a man I couldn’t love, who didn’t want me to love him, who didn’t want to love me,” Céline wrote in her autobiography. Her mother disapproved greatly, as she was extremely wary of her daughter becoming increasingly infatuated by a twice-divorced man much older than her.
Céline, however, was adamant, apparently telling her mother: “I’m not a minor. This is a free country. No one has the right to prevent me from loving whoever I want to.” Eventually, Thérèse came around – but not without putting up a fight first. “She had no choice,” Céline later told Access Hollywood. “Love won.” And that was that – the start of a love affair that would last for a lifetime.
However, Céline and René kept their feelings for each other – and their subsequent relationship – under wraps, as they feared that people, including fans, would disapprove, and it could thereby negatively affect Céline’s career. It stayed this way for years, until 1993 when Céline was 25, and René was 51.
They went public with their relationship when Céline announced her feelings for René publicly by declaring him to be “The color of [her] love” in the dedication section of her album “The Colour of My Love.” Now, the truth was out there for the world to see, and the couple had to wait to find out what the general reaction would be.
However, instead of receiving criticism from fans and critics alike – as both Céline and René had feared – people seemed to embrace the couple and were happy for them. They received outpourings of love and encouragement from all over the world, which gave them the confidence boost they needed.
Just over a year later, in December 1994, Céline and René got married in an extravagant wedding ceremony that was broadcast live on Canadian television. Meanwhile, “The Colour of My Love” became Céline’s most successful record to date, peaking at number one in multiple countries around the world.
Céline and René wanted to start a family together, but unfortunately, they struggled for years to conceive, as reported by the Daily Mail. Their emotional battle with infertility finally paid off, however, and thanks to in vitro fertilization (IVF), the couple was able to fall pregnant.
After giving birth to her first child, a son who they named René-Charles, Céline and René were determined to extend their family and have at least one more child. Céline felt so strongly about it that she was even prepared to risk the career that she’d worked so hard for.
Céline had signed a contract with Caesars Palace that she was expected to uphold, but she felt as though trying for another baby was far more important to her in the long run. It’s a difficult decision for any artist to make, but it didn’t take long for Céline to decide to postpone her shows in order to undergo IVF treatments.
“I was not going to stop just because I had a contract for singing. I would have hated every song for the rest of my life.” she later told the Daily Mail. “So, I said try to postpone the Caesars Palace shows because it wasn’t a good enough reason for me not to try for a baby. A life or a contract? I couldn’t live with that.”
As a result, Céline called off all her Las Vegas shows, and she and René battled through another six rounds of IVF – something that certainly took their toll both emotionally and physically on the couple – before conceiving their twin boys, Nelson and Eddy.
“People stop because it’s very expensive, but I kept on going,” she later told the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview. She explained that, although every failed attempt was extremely painful for both her and René, there was a passion and drive inside her that motivated her to keep trying – plus, it’s not like they had to worry about not having enough money.
With their three sons, Céline and René finally had the family that they had always dreamed of. Unfortunately, however, their bliss would not last forever. René’s health began to deteriorate in the late 1990s, and in 1999, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Incredibly, after undergoing several rounds of treatment, he made a full recovery and was declared to be in remission later appearing in the music video for “Save You,” a song by Simple Plan that focused on survivors of cancer.
Unfortunately, René’s throat cancer returned many years later, and this time, it was more aggressive. In December 2013, he had surgery on his throat, but it didn’t get rid of his cancer completely. As a result, in June 2014, he stepped down as Céline’s manager in order to focus on his health, although he was still involved in business decisions.
In September 2015, Céline made the heart-breaking announcement that René’s cancer had progressed and that he had only “months to live.” There was an incredible outpour of love and support from her millions of fans worldwide, who expressed their sympathy at the sad news.
On January 14th, 2016, just two days before his 74th birthday, René sadly passed away as a result of his throat cancer. His funeral was held just over a week later, on January 22nd, 2016, in the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal – the same building in which he and Céline married 21 years earlier. The couple’s eldest son, René-Charles, gave the eulogy – it was just three days before his 15th birthday.
After René’s death, Céline automatically became the president and sole owner of her management and production companies, including Les Productions Feeling and CDA Productions. Just two days after René’s death, and on what would have been his birthday, Céline’s brother, Daniel, died at age 59, also of cancer.
Recalling the day of René’s passing, Céline said: “He called me before a show and gave me a little message: ‘I love you.’ And when I came home that night, it was very, very late … And I didn’t want to come and wake him up to give him a kiss, to wake him up and then he can’t find sleep again.”
She continued: “And the next morning, he was gone. So, we talked before. And he sent me a text message. So we said goodbye.” Céline says that she saved the message and still occasionally looks at it for comfort.
However, Céline is able to deal with her pain and continue with her life as best as she possibly can, even though she says she feels René’s presence with her always. “I am at peace because I know that he doesn’t suffer,” she said. “And I know that, right now, the courage that I have, he has given it to me all my life.”
Calling René the “greatest man in the world,” Céline continued: “Knowing that now he’s in peace and is resting and is always within me. I see him every day through the eyes of my children. He gave me so much strength.”
Céline made no secret of how painful she found the death of her beloved husband. “I will probably grieve for the rest of my life,” she told Digital Spy in 2017. However, instead of allowing her heartbreak to overcome her, she decided to channel her grief into her music, explaining to People magazine that it was a source of healing for her.
In fact, “Courage” — the first English-language album Céline released after her René’s death — helped her to manage her pain. She told CBS This Morning that she poured all her energy not only into the album’s production but also the tour that accompanied it.
This new, all-involved method was, however, a big change from how she previously worked. Before, she hadn’t wanted to be involved in meetings and any of the technical side of production, preferring instead to leave all of the leg work to René. “I just wanted to sing the best way that I could, and that’s it,” she said.
Her deep involvement in “Courage,” however, enabled her to realize her other strengths – of which there are many. According to Céline, it helped her to see that she’s “not just a singer” – plus, she said she found the whole process cathartic.
While Céline does not deny her undying love for René, she does still look to the future. “I miss to be touched. I miss to be hugged. I missed to be told, ‘You’re beautiful,'” she said in an interview. “I miss what a boyfriend and I miss what a husband would do.”
“I keep my soul and my heart open,” she said when asked about the possibility of finding love again. “Because I am so much (about) love, you know — with my fans and my children and my family. And I feel that love, and it keeps me going. But love, love, love, love, love — the true love, the romance, the romantic love — is not present. But it’s OK.”
Despite her profound loss and the deep sorrow that she feels as a result of it, Céline has found new strength. “I went through a lot, and I’m not the only one,” she said. “People have gone through a lot, and so they probably understand what I’m saying right now.”
“Sometimes, when you go through a lot,” she continued, “Whether it’s disappointment or a loss, there is a force that takes over when you believe.” It’s this mindset that inspired her to carry on and live her life to the fullest in the best way that she knew how.
Céline recently addressed reports that there is a new man in her life – Pepe Munoz, a 34-year-old dancer. “Yeah, there’s another man in my life but not the man in my life. I don’t mind because he’s handsome and he’s my best friend,” she said.
“He’s a gentleman, and we’re friends, we’re best friends,” she continued. “To be honest, I think I’m at the best of my life right now, and I want to enjoy and embrace every moment of it and really enjoy it. It’s like I’m having a second wind like I’m having the wind beneath my wings. I’m having a good time.”
While Céline has made it perfectly clear that she hasn’t yet jumped back into the dating scene, she did express in an interview that she was open to the possibility of finding someone new in the future. “Say yes for love maybe one day, I don’t know,” she said.
For now, though, Céline is just going with the flow and taking each day as it comes, without worrying too much about what will happen in the future. “I’m not stressed at all,” she said, adding that she’s enjoying her life and her career. “I feel like I can do anything I want.”
On January 16th, 2020, at 92 years old and after battling numerous health issues for some time, Céline’s mother Thérèse unfortunately died, just two days after the fourth anniversary of René’s death. The loss came as a huge blow to Céline, who had always remained close to her mother.
At the time, Céline was on her Courage World Tour, but she decided not to cancel any performances. Instead, she powered through her heartbreak and performed the very next day, dedicating the whole performance to her beloved mother. In an interview with People, Céline said she adored and missed her “amazing” mother, revealing that “she was my hero.”
Céline has always been motivated and driven when it comes to her career, and she is known for putting in incredibly long hours to make sure that her music and records are flawless. Diane Warren, who has written some of Céline’s most iconic songs, told Billboard what is “impressive” about working with the singer.
“I went to her show, and it’s almost two hours,” she said. “She’s not lip-synching. She’s singing songs that aren’t easy to sing. Then, we went into the studio at 11:30 at night, and she stayed until, like, 4 a.m. and would not leave until it was perfect.” According to Warren, Céline’s dedication is a rarity in the music industry. “A lot of times you work with singers, and they’re like, ‘Aw, I’ll finish next time,'” she said. Céline, however, always gives it her all.
With Céline Dion, what you see is what you get – and she has no shame. In an interview in 2017, she told The Guardian: “For me, being cool is to feel happy and stable and sure of myself. I think when you become a parent, you become more involved in life. I take every decision more carefully.”
She noted that, while she felt the need to “prove” herself in the music world when she was first starting out in her career, those days are long gone, and she’s not afraid to do what she wants to do and be who she wants to be. She explained, “Not anymore. I’m doing this for fun.”
While some celebrities are reclusive and share few personal details with the public, Céline has always worn her heart on her sleeve, being real and authentic at all times – something that we believe has made her so beloved by her many fans. “I’ve been an open book all my life; I’m like this in my real life,” she told V Magazine in 2012.
However, according to Céline, being an open book isn’t just about allowing her fans to see her real self. The phrase also conveys her belief that she is the author of her own story. In 2016, she told Elle France: “I like to think that my life is an open book, and there are still plenty of pages to write.”
Aside from her music, one thing that has helped Céline cope with the losses in her life is raising her children. She has raised them without the help of nannies, which is relatively unusual in the celebrity world, telling People that it has been her top priority in life and “the biggest source of [her] healing.”
Céline has some fairly progressive ideas when it comes to motherhood, such as her commitment to raising her kids free of gender stereotypes. She told The Sun that she believes in giving her kids “an option of trying things,” revealing that, at the age of two, her twin boys, Eddy and Nelson, were trying on her lipstick and boots.
As a result of her decision to raise her children without conforming to gender stereotypes, Céline was inspired to launch a children’s gender-neutral clothing line with NUNUNU – reportedly, after her sons asked for Barbie dolls instead of action figures and were fascinated by Minnie Mouse instead of Mickey on a trip to Disneyland.
In an interview with CNN, Céline said that gender-neutral clothing is about “freedom” rather than “conformity,” stating that: “Giving them the opportunity, before they speak, they already have a voice.” Her clothing line has been successful, and she continues to expand it.
Since making it as a huge international star in the music world, Céline has also become recognized as a major style icon in the fashion world. In fact, in 2016, she even started working with stylist Law Roach, who is known for working with other huge stars such as Ariana Grande and Zendaya.
Roach told Elle he was “freaking out” when Céline’s team approached him. “I mean, you have superstars, and you have legends,” he said. “Celine is an icon. She is an absolute icon. The thing about Celine is she’s very into fashion. She reads the magazines, and she’s very current, which I was surprised about. Everyone’s clamoring to dress her now.”
Owing to her extremely slight frame, Céline has been the subject of a multitude of eating disorder rumors for decades, which she has consistently denied, stating: “I don’t have an eating problem, and there’s nothing more I can say about it. My work requires me to be in great physical shape.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to live up to a hundred shows a year and travel ceaselessly from one end of the world to the other if I had eaten too much or not enough, or if, as certain magazines have claimed, I made myself throw up after each meal,” she continued.
The truth is, Céline is in extremely good shape. She revealed to People magazine that she does as much as she can to take care of both her body and her soul, including making sure she gets enough sleep and eating “very healthily.” While she regularly works out with a trainer, her true love is dancing.
Céline said that she does ballet nearly every day, calling dance “one of my greatest joys.” She told Entertainment Tonight that while she has always been on the slim side, “I want to feel strong, beautiful, feminine and sexy.”
In spite of becoming famous at a young age, and remaining in the spotlight ever since Céline has always managed to remain down to earth and focused. Although she’s a household name around the world, she still doesn’t care much for fame.
Instead of focusing on fame and fortune, Céline prefers to focus on the important things in life, such as her three children, who she told Magnifissance are what she is “most proud of” and her “biggest success in life.” This, according to Céline, is what defines her life, rather than fame, hit records, and awards.
The fact that Céline has managed to stay grounded in spite of her huge net worth, which is estimated to be around $800 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, is impressive enough, but she hasn’t stopped there. She also wants to help other women recognize their own worth beyond financial and professional success.
As the global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris, Céline told Elle that she connects with the brand’s “I’m Worth It” tagline. “Telling other women that they, too, have self-worth, that they are strong, is obviously really important,” she said.