Where does her heart beat now?
At home with her family, Céline Dion speaks openly on spirituality, the meaning of true success, and what fans can anticipate when she returns to Vegas this summer.
As the red curtain opens, the sold-out crowd erupts into screaming and applause with a standing ovation, before even one note is sung. Céline Dion appears as an angel, donning a flowing white gown adorned with Swarovski crystals and supermodel blowout hair. A powerhouse disguised as a princess, Céline’s voice imparts a high-voltage current of electricity and silky vibrato. She delivers each number with a core of conviction and ripe emotion that has audiences cheering one moment, and wiping away a tear the next.
“There’s something magical about showbiz that only the fans and only the stage owns,” the French-Canadian singer, 47, says in an interview with Taste of Life. “When you sing it live, it’s like singing (that hit) for the first time. I can’t explain it, other than it’s magic.”
It’s that passion that keeps bringing Céline back to the entertainment industry for over 30 years. During that time she’s stepped away from stardom periodically to start a family, rest her vocal chords or in the case of last year’s sabbatical, to care for her husband René Angelil as he recovered from surgery. The “Loved Me Back to Life” diva recently announced she’ll resume her Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on August 27.
“We are back [in action]. We are still together and stronger than ever,” she says with a fire of enthusiasm in her voice. “René is a champion. I loved him all my life. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I am his favourite singer and he wants to see me back on the stage singing again!”
René continues to be involved in the artistic direction of the show, but has stepped down as manager to make way for Aldo Giampaolo, a former head of Cirque du Soleil, to steer Céline’s career.
René’s ongoing cancer fight has been a strenuous one for the couple, who share three sons, René-Charles, 14, and twins Eddy and Nelson, five.
You can feel her strength as she speaks. Growing up, she may have been the baby of her family, but today she is the rock — putting aside her own fears and anxieties to step up for those she loves. It’s not the first time she’s had to carry on despite adversity. Early in her career, Céline’s niece died in her arms after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Since then, she has made it her personal crusade to raise money for charities that help underprivileged or sick children.
Having a strong spiritual outlook has helped Céline through these most difficult of circumstances.
“Life is not always perfect. You have to deal with it. Whatever life imposes — sickness, or whatever, you don’t have a choice. This is life, this is nature. But you do have the choice on how you’re going to go through this. And if you don’t have spirituality you’re going to fall apart before things happen. I am very spiritual. I believe in myself, I believe in my family, and I’m positive. Through this, you show your children how to deal with things, and how to be strong.”
Céline transformed from talented teen in the ’80s to international superstar in the ’90s. Her parents and 13 siblings had all been musicians, and from the age of 5, Céline was entertaining those who came to her parents’ small club in Charlemagne, Québec.
“When there’s music in your life, there is happiness,” says Céline. “I had one dream. I wanted to be a singer.”
At the age of 12, together with her mother and one of her brothers, Céline composed a French song and delivered a demo tape to music manager René Angelil. He went on to oversee her career and later become her husband of 21 years.
Céline has produced 25 studio albums and received numerous awards, including five Grammys, 20 Juno Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the honour of receiving the Order of Canada. Céline’s international breakthrough came when she recorded the title song for the soundtrack to Disney’s hit movie Beauty and the Beast, and was followed by numerous hit singles including “The Power of Love,” “Love Can Move Mountains,” and “My Heart will Go On” from the Titanic soundtrack.
A staying force in the ever fluctuating world of pop, Céline continues to evolve — her last album includes fresh material written by Australian artist Sia, and the duet “Incredible,” written and recorded with R&B crooner Ne-Yo, who has created hit singles for Rihanna, Beyonce, and Whitney Houston.
Throughout her life, Céline has made the decision to stay away from the party scene.
“I protect myself,” she says. “Show business can be a dangerous place. Anyone that goes in the jungle can see beauty, but you can be eaten up by nature as well.”
She’s thankful to have been surrounded her whole career by professionals that wanted the best for her, and most importantly, to have the foundation of a big healthy family.
Today Céline finds her greatest joy in her family and acknowledges that sometimes it takes riding through sickness or sadness to realize what really matters in life.
“It has nothing to do with the albums, the money, the awards and how many records I’ve sold. I’m still on stage because I still love that part of my life, but what I’m most proud of, what I consider my biggest success, is my family — my three beautiful children.”
There’s comfort in knowing it’s mid-afternoon and Céline is in her pyjamas and bathrobe — her twin 5-year-old boys, Nelson and Eddy, playing nearby and her teenage son at hockey practice. At this moment her life seems so normal.
“I have it all,” she says.
While her three kids are certainly individuals, semblance of Céline shines through in her twins’ affinity for musical instruments and penchant for fashion. Céline and René still own a golf course in Québec and their oldest son René-Charles is showing some real athletic potential, recently posting on his Instagram account that he “hit this drive over 315 yards...”
While we all want to be remembered, to feel that we’ve contributed something to the world, when we asked Céline what she wants her legacy to be, she answered with humility.
“I want to be remembered as the best mom in the world. I want my kids to always come back when they’re married and say, ‘Let’s go see Grandma.’ And I want to cook for all my grandchildren.”
The much-needed break has allowed Céline to come back stronger than ever for the next chapter in her career. Between training and rehearsals for her Vegas show — newly choreographed and with fresh direction from band leader Scott Price — Céline’s excitement grows as the date of her return gets closer.
“I can’t wait to be back. It feels brand new again.”
Photography by Alix Malka/ OSA Images/ Gérard Schachmes