Canadian singer Céline Dion was born and raised in Quebec, Canada. Before becoming one of the best-selling artists in the world, what did she get up to?
Céline Dion has been famous from an early age. When she was 12 years old, music manager René Angélil heard the young Dion’s voice and decided to make her a star. Before she was thrust into the public light, Dion lived a fairly ordinary childhood.
Let’s take a look at what Céline Dion’s childhood was like and how she turned into the superstar singer we know today.
What was Céline Dion’s childhood like?
Céline Dion was born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada—a tiny village in the french-speaking region of Canada—on March 30, 1968. Her father, Adhémar-Charles Dion, worked as a butcher and her mother, Thérèse Tanguay Dion, was a stay-at-home mom to 14 children, with Céline being the youngest.
The Dion family was not at all well-off, with a butcher’s salary of only $165 a week to support a family of 16.
Friend of Céline and former publicist for the star, Mia Dumont, recalled of Céline’s father, “Since they didn’t have any money, he used to walk to work because he would save 10 cents each day by not taking the bus.”
Peter Castro, a prominent figure of People Magazine, has discussed Dion’s childhood saying, “Five of them shared a bed, all of them shared one bathroom, they had no washing machine, you know, they were so poor that after dinner, they would flip the plates over to have dessert.”
The big Dion family.
Céline was raised in a strict Roman Catholic environment but talked about her more laid back approach to religion in 2014, citing the troubles her mother faced with priests. They would pose questions to Céline’s mother such as “How many children? When is the next one?”
When her mother told the nosey priest, “I am going to have children when I decide to have children,” he banished her from the church.
Céline said of the incident, “That is the way we were raised. That is the strength and belief we had. I didn’t have to go to church and get on my knees to find something to hold onto.”
Despite the family’s hardships, Dion looks back on her childhood fondly and has said that she recalls special moments, such as her mother using the oven to both make toast and warm up the sibling’s socks.
How did Céline Dion become famous?
Music was a big part of Dion’s family—she was even named after a song, of the same name, by French singer Hugues Aufray.
Dion’s biographer has said of the childhood home that, “everybody was singing or playing music. Guitar, piano, drums, everything. And she was raised in this family where the music was so important.”
Her older brother Michael remembers Céline’s first larger scale performance, at his own wedding. He recalls, “I had my own band up there, and I asked her, ‘Do you want to sing a song?’ She said, ‘Three.’ So I gave her my microphone.”
According to Celine, before she began she was “frozen with fear,” but after she received a standing ovation from the crowd, she knew she wanted to become a professional singer.
Dion’s parents owned a small piano bar where she practiced her stage presence regularly with her family.
Her big break came at age 12. She recorded a demo tape, singing a song written by her mother, titled, “It Was Only A Dream,” and one of her brothers sent it off to Rene Angelil after seeing his name on the back of a record.
At the time, Angelil was new on the music producing scene and didn’t have a ton of cash to spend on producing Dion’s music, so he mortgaged his house in order to produce her first french-language album, La voix du bon Dieu, which became a Canadian number one hit.
Céline went on to learn English, which enabled her to sell albums internationally, eventually becoming one of the most celebrated artists of our time.
Take a look at this charming video of 15-year-old Céline practicing her English.