25 Years After ‘Titanic,’ Quebec’s Love for Céline Dion Will Go On

MONTREAL – It was a Friday night in Montreal, and hundreds of excited revelers danced and sang “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” at a sold-out Céline Dion tribute party. A young man favored a homemade version of a yellow headdress made of scorched peacock feathers. Dion wore at the Met Gala a few years ago. Another gawked at the small temple of Dion-inspired wigs, showcasing her hairstyles through the decades.

“In an age of arrogant stars, she was always authentic,” says Simon Venne, 38-year-old fashion stylist. “She is everything to us, a source of pride, our queen.”

If it ever felt like Quebec, the French-speaking province where Dion was born, contradicted Dion’s rise to global superstardom with pop hits she used to sing in English, it’s been lost. dispel. Now, she occupies an exalted place here, experiencing a cultural renaissance as Quebec’s younger generation has embraced her unwaveringly: Radio Canada, national broadcaster says in French, analyzing her life on a podcast translated as “Céline—She’s the Boss!”; a recent set of documents called “It’s fun to like Céline Dion” explores her appeal to millennials, and Céline Dion drag drag competitions have increased sharply.

Dion’s emotional announcement this month that she is suffering from a rare neurological condition called hard man syndrome, which forced her to postpone upcoming tour dates, was met with an unusually large amount. Québécois politicians from across the political spectrum, including Quebec debutant François Legault, and the head of a party advocating for Quebec’s independence from Canada, get cheated to express sympathy for Dion, 54. Fans expressed their condolences on social media. A headline in Le Devoir, an influential newspaper in Quebec, called her “Céline, Queen of Québécois.” The newspaper notes that Dion has achieved the status of an untouchable icon after years of criticism and ridicule by others.

“It’s like hearing that your aunt is sick,” said Venne, the feathered fan. “Céline is famous all over the world, but here she is family.”

The intensity of the reaction here — 25 years after the blockbuster premiere “Titanic,” helped make Dion’s song “My Heart Will Go On” popular — showing how much Céline’s fandom and ideas about Québécois identity evolved over time as the province, like her daughter Its most famous, has grown.

On a recent visit to Avenue Céline Dion in Charlemagne, a lifeless stretch in the working-class town of about 6,000 in the suburb of Montreal where Dion was born, a group of 20-year-olds said they were no longer ugly. ashamed to admit to liking her music.

Gabriel Guénette, 26, a university student and former Uber delivery worker, said: “Being stuck at home during a pandemic makes people nostalgic for the past, and everything is old and antique. classics became fashionable. Power of Love” in karaoke nights. Dion’s message of hope and unbridled optimism resonates during these uncertain times, he added.

The elderly residents of Charlemagne still call her “the not-small Céline” – our little Céline – and recall her days as a shy teenager who performed French ballads with 13 brothers. her sisters at her family’s restaurant. Younger residents – including 15-year-old Meghan Arsenault, who attended the same high school Dion attended – grew up singing her songs.

Across Quebec, a French-speaking province of 8.5 million people battered by centuries of subjugation and fear of subjugation by the English language, Dion is at times a divisive figure. Even as many fans received her warmly, she was considered by some critics to be culturally equivalent to poutineQuébécois snack of french fries and cheese curds soaked in gravy drunkenly and sinfully at 3 a.m.

Some of the elite balked at her success, seeing in her crowded working-class family, her colorful outfits and weak English as an unpleasant mirror. about an old Quebec they wanted to forget. Some consider her scanainecheesy in Québécois argot.

And the fact that she sings in English is sometimes an insult to hardline Francophone nationalists. But when Dion thanked the audience with the phrase “Merci!” at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics after singing “The Power of Dreams,” a single word reverberated throughout the province, an affirmation that French Canada had gone global.

Martin Proulx, producer who hosted the podcast, “Céline, She’s the Boss!” recounts that as a gay teenager in Montreal in the 1990s, he hid the fact that he was listening to her “Let’s Talk About Love” album on his Sony Walkman. He recalls: “It wasn’t cool falling in love with Céline when I was in high school – kids my age listened to hip-hop and heavy rock and she spent soccer moms watching Oprah.

Now, he says, he can proudly declare his passion, in part because the more confident Quebec has shed some of its past guilt. Québécois’ younger generation appears to be less worried than their parents or grandparents about language and identity issues, he says, and more likely to embrace global stardom, financial success and Dion’s bilingualism served as a template for their own international aspirations.

Mr Proulx said: “We used to roll our eyes – now we think she is a real genius. “She never changed. We did.”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Quebec-born musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, says that his first memory of Dion is from 1984, when he was just eight years old. Dion, 16 years old, sing a song about a dove before Pope John Paul II and 60,000 people at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Nézet-Séguin said he was extremely proud to know she was a Quebecer, and said he considers Dion a “diva” in the performative sense of the word.

“When I think of a diva, I think of personality, there is something artistically recognizable, and one cannot deny the virtuosity of Céline’s voice,” he said.

The keen interest in Dion is hardly limited to Quebec. “Aline,” a very unusual fictional film drawn from her life, made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival last year. When a musical parody of “Titanic” called “Titanique” recently moved to a larger Off Broadway theater in New York, its producers promised “More shows. More seats. More Celine.” And Dion will appear alongside Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sam Heughan in a romantic comedy called “Love Again” which is scheduled to hit theaters in North America in May.

The fascination with Dion lasts in part because her Cinderella story never gets old. The youngest of 14 children of an organ-playing butcher and a Charlemagne housewife, Dion’s first bed as a child was a drawer. At the age of 12, she co-wrote her first song, “Ce n’était qu’un rêve,” with the help of his mother and brother Jacques. Her brother, Michel, sent a demo of the cassette to showman René Angélil, who became her manager and later her husband.

Dion had a complete makeover, disappearing for 18 months in 1986 to learn English, brush his teeth, curl his hair, learn his voice and dance. A star was born.

When Angélil died in 2016, two days before his 74th birthday, his two days were meticulously celebrated. funeral arrangements at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Montreal is broadcast by CBC, national television station, and flags were lowered all over Quebec. Dion, clad in black, stood by her husband’s open coffin for seven hours, greeting Quebec dignitaries and the public.

In the years since, Dion has recreated his similar image for the Instagram age. One Vetements’ Titanic Hoodie she wore in Paris in 2016 broke the internet. A few years later, she stole the show at the camp-themed Met Gala, in an Oscar de la Renta champagne jumpsuit embellished with silver sequins. Her goofy, self-deprecating look on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke 2019 from Las Vegas, in which she sang “My Heart Will Go On” in front of a replica of the Titanic’s bow at the Bellagio Hotel’s fountain, helped some who mocked her realize that she was in prank.

Now her fandom seems stronger than ever.

Mario Bennett, 36, who works in a concert hall, started filling every inch of his cramped basement apartment with memorabilia from Céline Dion at the start of the pandemic. He says that throughout his life, Miss Dion’s powerful voice has been a clear call to dream big. Among his treasured possessions is an illegally collected Céline doll, wearing a mini version of the midnight blue velvet dress the singer wore to the 1998 Oscars.

“She made me feel that anything was possible,” he said.

Guy Hermon, an Israeli drag queen who immigrated to Montreal a decade ago and absorbed Quebec culture — and the French language — by trying to portray Dion, said he was never a fan of her music but invented his alternative self, Dion, “Crystal Slippers” unnecessary on the Dion-obsessed Québécois drag circuit.

After years of imitating Miss Dion, he said he had come to appreciate her. “She just wanted everyone to be happy,” he said.


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