Shania Twain talks new Netflix documentary 'Not Just a Girl'

Shania Twain talks to Yahoo Entertainment about her new Netflix documentary Not Just a Girl.

Video transcript

LYNDSEY PARKER: All right, Shania, I've been waiting to say this for a while. Let's go girl. Let's do this.

SHANIA TWAIN: Yeah, let's do this. Absolutely.

LYNDSEY PARKER: In the documentary we're here to talk about, "Not Just a Girl" on Netflix-- you really go there in this documentary. Did you have any epiphanies about your journey when you watch the final product?

SHANIA TWAIN: Well just making the documentary was a visit, naturally, into the past from the very beginning of my music career and all of the trials, all of the basically the blood, sweat, and tears of my music career. And that in itself took some courage to revisit. You know, it's sort of like-- do I really want-- I don't sit around thinking about the past every day, otherwise I'd get (LAUGHING) I might get a bit depressed.

There was some emotional moments just looking back at all of that stuff.

LYNDSEY PARKER: There's this montage in the documentary where all the reporters are talking about how pretty you are and talking about your midriff, or whatever. It was like kind of like too much emphasis on that and not on the art, like didn't that-- did that bother you at all?

SHANIA TWAIN: I took myself-- as a young child-- I took myself very seriously as a songwriter, as a thinker, as somebody who enjoyed play on words, on chord progressions, I took myself-- at eight, I wasn't thinking about how beautiful I could be or-- you know, I was thinking music.


SHANIA TWAIN: So when I look at those interviews, because I know exactly what you're talking about, I see my facial language or expressions. I felt like rolling my eyes in the moment.


SHANIA TWAIN: Even in the moment I'm thinking, oh, my-- they can't-- things have to change. Is this really what I'm dealing with here and what I'm going to have to deal with? But it was the reality at the time. For me it's always been about visual art as well. I was always visualizing what the songs would look like from the beginning of making the songs, from writing the lyrics. So to be sort of shut down or not taken as seriously for the other part of the art that I did, it was awkward and sad for me in a way because I thought, wow, don't you just recognize that I do all of this, this a global, full-circle experience for me as an artist?

LYNDSEY PARKER: But you do mention in the documentary that you-- I think you used the word "disruption." You were a disruption.


LYNDSEY PARKER: Were you trying to change country music? Did you have--

SHANIA TWAIN: No, not at all. I was just being me. And I was-- I've heard so many things, like I ruined country or--

LYNDSEY PARKER: Wait. Who said that? I have to interject for a minute. Someone said you ruined country? Like the biggest selling country album of all time ruined country? What? That makes no sense?

SHANIA TWAIN: Country will never be the same since Shania. I used the word "disruptive" as a polite way of saying that, you know, that I was-- but I wasn't intentionally being disruptive. I was just doing my thing. The documentary does set some record straight as far as, oh, yeah. You guys remember how sexist certainly the industry was at the time that I came out in country music, less so in pop, which confused me very much. I'm like, OK, well, why is there such a gap here? Why is there such a barrier? That probably made me a little more determined in the moment.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Something I did learn from your documentary is you initially wanted to sing rock when you first started working with the producer who later became your husband. He came from that hard rock background and a lot of people maybe were skeptical about how the two of you would fit. But now to know that you had the rock stuff in your arsenal already makes it make more sense to me how you guys connected artistically.

SHANIA TWAIN: It was very natural. The documentary has been very important in that sense for me to be able to explain a little bit of how, in the moment, most people around us thought, well, this is really like the mismatch of the century. (CHUCKLING) You know? But really we were very, very much in-line and the documentary explains that, I think, very well-- how musically connected we were. It was a no-brainer for us, it just didn't seem that way to everybody else.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Since we started this interview kind of talking about ways in which you may have been doubted by the industry or whatever, which can be a very misogynist business, it's kind of a common thing that when a woman works with a famous man, there's this misconception that the man is a Svengali, that he's pulling the strings, that he's writing all the songs or whatever. I mean, that must have been very hard for you to tend with.

SHANIA TWAIN: Well there was a lot of biting my lip during those years because I felt that addressing it in interviews would bring more attention to it so I'm like, I'm not going to give you that satisfaction. You can think whatever you want.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I did notice when I said something about how the industry can be misogynist, your eyes got big and you like threw up your hands like, yes! So I have to ask, like what were some of the-- do you have any like stories-- they could be in the documentary or not-- of like moments that just were really frustrating for you and and you had to bite your lip, as you say?

SHANIA TWAIN: Well for example, the video for it was "Any Man of Mine," so you know I'm in the bathtub with bubbles and there's a horse you know peeking in through the window and hands me a towel. I'm just thinking, this is the coolest thing ever. I love horses, this is unique, nobody else has this in their video, I'm bra-less for a lot of that video as well. And just things like that, which I thought were just me being feeling-- just being very free and enjoying myself, right?

So I go back to the editing department with the video footage, and they're like, I think people are going to think bestiality when they see this video. I'm like, OK, now, are you kidding? Where is this thinking coming from? I mean this is a pet.


SHANIA TWAIN: That's like saying, OK, when you take a shower, make sure that your dog is not in the room. Is that what you-- like, come on now. So this was-- I was frustrated in those moments.


SHANIA TWAIN: I was like, OK, if I have to overthink everything this much, I'm never going to be creative. I'm going to be so stifled. And, so that was definitely-- and those were things that were recurring in those early years. And I just I remember thinking, wow, I'm going to go bra-less while I can because I know that some day I'm going to be down to my knees and I just want to enjoy some of this natural buoyancy or whatever you want to call it, right?

So this is just me enjoying being a woman, right? It's like, OK, you're either burdened with your breasts or you feel good about your breasts. Which one do you want to be, right? So I'm like, well, I don't want to be burdened by my breasts. I want to like enjoy them and wear things that make me feel like I'm happy I have them, instead of like, oh, you know, bummer I've got these.


So it was-- it was just kind of-- there were a lot of moments like that where I just like, I refuse to resent being a woman.

LYNDSEY PARKER: The word "feminism" comes up a lot in this documentary, and you have your own kind of brand of it, which is championed by a lot of the people who speak in this documentary about you.

SHANIA TWAIN: I think it's all in the perception of whoever is making their conclusions about me. I don't-- I'm not a like self-proclaimed feminist. I'm just myself. I'm just me. I'm making my own rules as I go. I, myself feel like I had a huge shell to break out of coming out of my teens. I was strapping my breasts down just to play football with the guys because they were focusing on the wrong bounce, you know?


SHANIA TWAIN: I'm like, OK, there's a ball and there's boobs, OK? I mean, let's just play sport here. So I was always fighting my feminine curves in order to be taken seriously. And when I started to get creative freedom with my-- and these creative platforms as a recording artist, I'm like, wow. I can-- I'm going to play with this now. This is my playground. I am breaking free from this nonsense of pretending I'm not a girl, that I'm not a woman, you know? Or trying to hide behind something else to be taken seriously. So that's probably feminism in its own way. It's, to me, a very personal rejection of these stigmas that we are, as women, often branded with.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I imagine this Renaissance you're in must feel very vindicating. It seems like everybody kind of finally gets it now.

SHANIA TWAIN: Well, you know what? It feels-- it feels very celebratory for me. "Not Just a Girl," I mean, that song says it all about where I've been, and where I am, and where I'm going, and where I hope everyone is going. "Not Just a Girl," that is not just a four-letter word.