Her heart will go on

Ahead of her first Aus­tralian tour in a decade, Cé­line Dion re­veals how her chil­dren, the crowds at her shows and, yes, some new clothes, helped her come to grips with the loss of her hus­band

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by CAMERON ADAMS

Ahead of her first Aus­tralian tour in 10 years, singing su­per­star Cé­line Dion talks ex­clu­sively to Stel­lar about deal­ing with grief on the world stage after los­ing her hus­band – and how her chil­dren, her fans, and even fash­ion, helped her to cope.

Two years after his pass­ing, Cé­line Dion still holds her late hus­band René Angélil’s hand each night. It’s ac­tu­ally a replica of his hand, cast in bronze, that sits backstage at ev­ery con­cert she plays. “I shake my hus­band’s hand and knock on wood with him ev­ery night be­fore ev­ery show,” she tells Stel­lar in an exclusive in­ter­view from her home in Las Ve­gas. “Even after he’s gone, I still talk to him.”

His chair also still sits va­cant at the back of the sound desk; a nod to the po­si­tion he’d take at ev­ery Dion con­cert, mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing went to plan. One thing they never planned for was Angélil’s throat cancer, the dis­ease that would take his life in Jan­uary 2016, just two days be­fore his 74th birth­day.

After he was first di­ag­nosed in 1999, Dion put her ca­reer on hold to look after her hus­band as he re­cov­ered from treat­ment, chang­ing his feed­ing tube three times a day. Their son René-charles was born in 2001, with the al­ways can­did Dion happy to pub­licly ac­knowl­edge us­ing fer­til­ity treat­ments be­cause she had trou­ble con­ceiv­ing.

Keen to re­duce her gru­elling tour­ing sched­ule to fo­cus on her hus­band’s health and rais­ing her son, Dion started a three-year, 600-show res­i­dency in Las Ve­gas in 2003. It ended up run­ning for a fourth year and grossed more than $485 mil­lion, the most suc­cess­ful res­i­dency in US his­tory. After she mis­car­ried in 2009, Dion gave birth to twin sons the fol­low­ing year – again us­ing IVF – named Eddy (after Eddy Mar­nay, who pro­duced her first five records) and Nel­son (for Nel­son Man­dela). With her hus­band in re­mis­sion, Dion then re­turned to Ve­gas in 2011 for an­other three-year stint.

Ve­gas was once dis­missed as a ca­reer grave­yard, but Dion’s strato­spheric suc­cess there in­spired a string of artists – from Brit­ney Spears to Jen­nifer Lopez and now Lady Gaga – to mount lu­cra­tive and cred­i­ble res­i­den­cies along its strip. The res­i­dency was one of Angélil’s many ca­reer mas­ter­strokes; Las Ve­gas was a spe­cial place for the pair, who re­newed their vows there in 2000.

But in the mid­dle of her sec­ond run, in 2013, Angélil’s throat cancer re­turned and he was forced to step down from full-time man­age­ment. Even dur­ing what Dion called his “heavy suf­fer­ing” he en­cour­aged his wife to go back to work. She would re­turn to per­form­ing only weeks after his death, break­ing down in tears while singing ‘All By My­self’.

“My hus­band wanted me to go back on­stage be­fore he passed, that’s what he wanted the most,” Dion says. “So I went back on­stage while he was still alive; he wanted to make sure I could keep go­ing. So I did prove to him yes, I could keep go­ing. I told him I’ve got the kids and that he’s got to trust me, he’s got to re­lax.

“He taught me so much. He did a great job; what he had been giv­ing to me all his life and all my life will al­ways be with me. He gave me his all. He mort­gaged his house to pay for my first al­bum. I guess be­fore he left he wanted to make sure I was fine. I’m try­ing to prove to him ev­ery day I’m fine. Our kids are grow­ing, we feel strong. We’re good.”

Dion’s new motto is summed up in a song her hus­band loved that is now a cor­ner­stone of her live shows: Queen’s tri­umphant ‘The Show Must Go On’. Their mar­riage, and pro­fes­sional part­ner­ship, re­main one of the ma­jor suc­cess sto­ries of mod­ern mu­sic. Dion has sold more than 200 mil­lion al­bums and is the most suc­cess­ful Cana­dian artist of all time with a net worth es­ti­mated at around $500 mil­lion.

Her ca­reer be­gan when Dion’s brother (she’s the youngest of 14 chil­dren) sent Angélil (a one-time vo­cal­ist turned tal­ent man­ager) a tape of a 12-year-old Dion singing. In 1981, he in­deed mort­gaged his house on a mis­sion to make the young Cana­dian a star – her first al­bum topped the charts in her na­tive Québec. By age 18, Dion wanted Michael Jack­son-style global fame; Angélil, now her man­ager, sug­gested a den­tal makeover and some English lessons.

Her in­ter­na­tional break­through came in 1991 on a duet with Pe­abo Bryson on ‘Beauty And The Beast’, from the hit an­i­mated film. A year later Angélil (who had two for­mer wives and three chil­dren) and Dion started a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship – with a 26 year age gap – and their 1994 mar­riage was broad­cast on Cana­dian TV.

Angélil’s funeral was held in the same Mon­treal church as their wed­ding, and was also broad­cast on TV and livestreamed. A stoic Dion sat by the open cas­ket as hun­dreds

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