MONTREAL – It was a Friday night, and hundreds of revelers were dancing and singing “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” at a Celine Dion tribute party. A man poses in a homemade version of the sung peacock feather gold headpiece worn by Dion at the 2019 Met Gala.
“In an age of pretentious stars, she’s always authentic,” said hairstylist Simon Wayne, 38. “She is everything to us, a source of pride, our queen.”
If there was ever a sense that Quebec, the French-speaking province where Dion was born, had conflicting feelings about her rise to global stardom, it has been dispelled. Embraced by Quebec’s younger generation, she is now in a great place, experiencing a cultural renaissance: Radio Canada, the national French-language broadcaster, takes a look at her life in a podcast titled ” Celine: She’s the one! The one”. Boss!”; a recent documentary titled “It’s Cool to Like Celine Dion” explored her appeal among millennials, and Celine Dion drag shows are on the rise.
Dion’s recent announcement that she suffers from a rare neurological condition known as Stiff Person Syndrome was met with an uproar. Quebec Prime Minister François Legault and the leader of a party advocating Quebec’s independence from Canada both expressed sympathy for the 54-year-old Dion. A headline in Le Devoir, an influential newspaper, called her “Céline, Queen of Quebecers”. Dion, the newspaper noted, had achieved the status of an untouchable icon after years of criticism.
“It’s like hearing that your aunt is sick,” Wayne said.
The response — 25 years after “Titanic,” the blockbuster that made Dion’s booming, euphoric song “My Heart Will Go On” ubiquitous — shows how much Céline’s fan base and ideas about Québécois identity have evolved.
During a visit to Celine Dion Boulevard in Charlemagne, the working-class town outside Montreal where Dion was born, a group of 20-somethings said it was no longer embarrassing that they liked her music.
“Stuck at home during the pandemic made people nostalgic for the past,” said 26-year-old college student Gabriel Guenet, who explained why he and his friends sang “The Power of Love” at karaoke nights.
Older Charlemagne residents still refer to her as “our little Céline” and remember her as a shy teenager who sang French ballads at her family’s restaurant. The little residents grew up singing their songs.
In Quebec, a province of 8.5 million people, Dion has been polarizing from time to time. Some saw in his working-class family, his gaudy dress and broken English an old Quebec they wanted to forget. Some considered it delicious. And singing in English has at times been offensive to French-speaking nationalists. But when Dion greeted the audience with “Mercy!” She resonated after she sang “The Power of the Dream” at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
The fascination with Dion lives on partly because of her Cinderella story. She was the youngest of 14 children and her first bed was a drawer. At age 12, she co-wrote her first song with the help of her mother and brother Jacques. Her brother Michel sent a cassette demo to businessman René Angélil, who became her manager and later her husband. Dion disappeared for 18 months in 1986 to study English, get veneers on her teeth, and take singing and dance lessons. A star was born.
When Angell died in 2016, his funeral was broadcast on national broadcaster CBC. Dion, wearing a black veil, stood by his casket, greeting dignitaries and the public.
Since then, she has revamped her image for the Instagram era. An appearance on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke from Las Vegas, during which she sang “My Heart Will Go On” in front of a replica of the Titanic’s bow at the Bellagio Hotel fountain, showed those who mocked her. who also knew how to laugh at themselves.
Mario Bennett, 36, who works in a concert hall, began covering every inch of his tiny Montreal apartment with Celine Dion memorabilia at the start of the pandemic.
He said that throughout her life, Dion’s powerful voice was a call to dream big: “She makes me feel like anything is possible.”