One of five children, Eilleen Twain had a hard childhood in Timmins. Her parents earned little, and there was often a shortage of food in the household. She did not confide her situation to school authorities, fearing they might break up the family. In the remote, rugged community she learned to hunt and to chop wood. Aside from working at an Ontario McDonald's restaurant, Twain began to earn money by singing in local clubs and bars from a very young age to support her family. She was singing in bars at the age of just eight to try to make ends meet, often earning twenty dollars between midnight and two in the morning when the bar had closed but the people remained. Although she has expressed a dislike for singing in such a smoky atmosphere at such a young age, Shania believes that this was her performing arts school on the road to becoming a successful singer. At one point, while Jerry was at work, her mother drove the rest of the family to a Toronto homeless shelter for assistance (source: Shania's interview in the January 2005 Readers Digest).
In 1984, she sang a duet performance on an album by Canadian musician (and present-day CKTB radio personality) Tim Denis.
When her mother and adoptive father died in a car accident on November 1, 1987, the 22-year-old Twain put her musical career on hold and took care of her family. She and her half-brothers Mark and Darryl, and sister Carrie Ann moved to Huntsville, Ontario, where she supported them by performing at the nearby Deerhurst Resort.
Twain wrote only one of the songs ("God Ain't Gonna Getcha for That") on her self-titled debut album. The album's first two singles, "What Made You Say That" and "Dance with the One That Brought You" peaked at #55 on the Hot Country Songs chart, while its third single, "You Lay a Whole Lot of Love on Me", failed to reach the charts. The album failed to sell significant copies initially, although Twain's future success generated enough interest for the album to be certified platinum by the RIAA, denoting sales of over a million..
Lange and Twain started working on a second album, and in 1995 The Woman in Me produced her first No. 1 single, "Any Man of Mine". The album topped the country charts for months and crossed over to mainstream charts, peaking at No. 5. As of 2007 it had sold more than 12 million copies. The Woman in Me won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album as well as the Academy of Country Music award for Album of the Year; the latter group also awarded Twain as Best New Female Vocalist.
The album stayed on the charts for the next two years and Come on Over went on to sell 20 million copies in the United States and over 34 million worldwide, making it the biggest-selling album of all time by a female musician, and the biggest-selling country album of all time. It is also the eighth biggest-selling album by any type of artist in the US.
Songs from the album won four Grammy Awards over the next two years, including Best Country Song for Twain and Lange for "You're Still the One" and "Come on Over" and Best Female Country Performance for "You're Still the One" and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"
Despite the album's record sales it wasn't able to top the Billboard 200, reaching a peak of No. 2. In 1999, the "Come on Over" album was remixed for the European market as a pop album with less country instrumentation and actually gave her the big breakthrough in Europe she and her producer husband were looking for. "Come on over" went to No. 1 on the UK album charts for 11 weeks. It became the biggest selling album of the year in Great Britain and a bestseller in other big European markets as well, selling more than one million copies in both the UK and Germany. The songs that had finally drawn European attention to the album were the pop remixed singles "That Don't Impress Me Much", a No.3 in the UK and Top 10 hit in Germany in the summer of 1999, and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" which peaked at No. 3 in both the UK and France in autumn of that year. Additionally, the album set the record for the longest ever stay in the Top 20 of The US Billboard 200, remaining in the Top 20 for 99 weeks.
Twain's mainstream pop acceptance was further helped by her appearance in the 1998 first edition of the VH1 Divas concert, where she sang alongside Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Aretha Franklin and by VH1's 1999 heavily-aired Behind the Music treatment of her, which concentrated on the tragic aspects of her early life as well as her physical attractiveness and Nashville's early resistance to her bared-midriff music videos.
In 1998, Twain launched her first major concert tour, aided by her manager Jon Landau, a veteran of many large-scale tours with Bruce Springsteen. The Come on Over Tour shows were enthusiastically received by audiences around the globe and answered critics who speculated that she could not perform live.
Up! was released as a double album, with three different "remix" discs--pop (a red CD), country (a green CD) and world music (a blue CD). For North American markets, the pop disc was paired with the country disc and in international markets, the pop disc was paired with the world music disc. This disc was recorded in Mumbai, India. Up! was given four out of five stars by Rolling Stone magazine, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling 874,000 in the first week alone. It charted at the top for five weeks. The success of the album's pop version outside the US was equally amazing when "Up!" reached No.1 in Germany, No.2 in Australia and the Top Five in the UK and France. Especially in Germany it became a real long seller, certified quadruple platinum and stayed in the Top 100 for one and a half years.
The first single from the album, "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!", became a top 10 country hit in the US, after debuting at an impressive No. 24 after only five days of airplay; but only made the Top 40 on the pop charts. It was a much bigger hit on the other side of the Atlantic, released in a pop version, the single hit the Top Five in the UK and Australia as well as the Top 15 in Germany and France. The follow-up single "Up!" reached the Top 15 in the US country charts but failed to reach the pop Top 40.
The second European single became the mid-tempo song "Ka-Ching!,"(which was never released as a single in North America) with lyrics where Twain was criticizing unchecked consumerism. The song eventually became another smash hit in the important European markets, reaching No. 1 in Germany and Austria and other European countries, the UK Top 10 and the Top 15 in France.
The third single from the album would be the most successful in the US. The romantic ballad "Forever and For Always" was released as a single in April 2003 and peaked at No. 4 on the country chart and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and made as well the Billboard Top 20. Again success was even bigger on the other side of the Atlantic with "Forever and For Always" again reaching the Top 10 in both, the UK and Germany. Further singles were "She's Not Just a Pretty Face" a country Top 10 hit, while the last US single, "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing", made the Top 20 on both Country and AC.
Due to the enormous European success of Up! and its first three singles, two more singles were released in the second half of 2003 with up-tempo "Thank You Baby" (No. 11 in the UK, Top 20 in Germany) and just before Christmas the romantic, acoustic ballad "When You Kiss Me", at least a minor hit in both territories. The title track "Up!" also saw a single release in a limited edition of European countries, such as Germany, in early 2004. In January 2008, Up! had sold 5.5 million copies in the U.S. (Certified by the RIAA as 11 times platinum due to the organization's rules regarding double albums, which are counted as two units for certifications).
In 2003, Twain participated in the Dolly Parton tribute album, Just Because I'm a Woman, covering Parton's classic "Coat of Many Colors", as a duet with Alison Krauss & Union Station. The cover peaked at No. 57 on the Hot Country Songs charts as an album cut. During the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show Twain performed two songs, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" and "Up!".
In August 2005, when Twain turned 40, she released the single "Shoes" from the Desperate Housewives soundtrack. It only peaked at No. 29 on the country chart and therefore, a video, which was scheduled to be created, was cancelled.
Twain's commercial ventures outside the music industry included a series of cosmetic ads in 1999 based on "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" for Revlon. She also starred in ads for Candie's shoes and Gitano jeans, who also sponsored her 1998-1999 Come On Over Tour.
Despite the Revlon cosmetic ads and venturing into the perfume market, Twain has stated that she is uneasy about being a sex symbol and has often felt uncomfortable and stressed during photo shoots where she believes it is music that will last forever, not an image. "When I began singing I wanted to be a backing singer for Dolly Parton or Stevie Wonder, I didn't sign up to be a model or actress and didn't want fame," she has said. "For me it's all about music. Music is when I feel at my best, spiritually, emotionally and physically".
According to Twain one of her beauty tips is applying an ointment known as Bag Balm that is normally applied to cow's udders during the winter months to protect it from the harsh weather. Twain has confessed to using the covering on her legs and all over her face for soft skin.
In addition to her various awards for her singles and albums, Twain has received a number of personal honours: