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Celine Dion: Down to Earth Diva

Céline Dion’s son may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but Canada’s best-selling export is working hard to make sure he and his future siblings stay real.

As working mothers go, Céline Dion has to rank as one of Canada’s most successful. Early this year she was named the top earner of the decade, raking in $747.9 million (U.S.), the bulk of which came from ticket sales to her Vegas show. Perhaps a more artistically meaningful accomplishment came from her native province of Quebec, which named her the Artist of the Decade in an online survey from Le Journal de Montreal. But the road to motherhood hasn’t been an easy one, despite coming from a family of 13 children. Céline and her husband, René Angelil, conceived their son, René-Charles (RC), through in vitro fertilization in 2001. The couple’s six more IVF attempts for a second pregnancy have been difficult, resulting in a much-publicized miscarriage. Happily, Céline recently announced she and her husband will welcome twin boys this November. In March 2011 she will return to Caesar’s Palace to perform 70 shows a year for three years. This past May she released a concert film from her Taking Chances World Tour, as well as a documentary of the tour, Céline: Through the Eyes of the World. ParentsCanada recently caught up with the megastar and asked her how she balances her busy performing life with trying to create a normal life for her son.

PC: People must think that the home life of a celebrity is different. Do you feel that way?

CD: While it’s certain that my day-to-day lifestyle is different, RC has the same needs as all other children; to eat, to play, to be loved and to be comforted. The security constraints that we live with prevent us from doing certain things normally, of course, but we’ve learned to deal with them, and RC understands, too. We’ve also seen that our staff has a good relationship with RC; it’s more comfortable for everyone. They are part of us. Apart from these things, the days go by just like any other household; RC goes to school, we eat together as a family, we do activities and play sports together. Essentially, we do what all other families do.

PC: Does wealth make being a parent easier?

CD: In some ways, yes. But whenever a child gets hurt, runs a high fever, has trouble in school, or is heartbroken, parents have the same fears and sympathies, regardless of social status. Despite what some might think, money doesn’t fix everything. It may make things more comfortable, but real comfort comes from within, and that’s something you can’t buy.

PC: Was going back to work hard for you?

CD: I probably went through the same things all women go through when they have to go back to work; there’s always that fear of missing special moments. It’s difficult to deal with that guilty feeling. I had been so happy and at peace when I was with RC and I was afraid that when I went back to work, I would lose all that. By planning, making compromises and staying organized, I think I’ve done fairly well. The Las Vegas show let me pursue both my professional life and my role as a full-time mother. I had mixed feelings about wanting to do both, but at the same time, I think it’s natural to feel that way, and was essential in helping me better appreciate both in the long run.

PC: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

CD: No. Even though it was hard at first, my return to the stage gave me other kinds of satisfaction that I could then use at home. At the same time, I’m very aware that I’m lucky to have had help from others, and also a lifestyle that lets me strike a balance between my career
and my family. All people’s life concerns are the same, and I need to feel fulfilled just like everyone else. It’s true that with my irregular schedules, the photo shoots, and the recording sessions that take up a lot of my time, I impose a different regimen on RC. Of course I’ve often
wished I could offer him a more normal life, but it’s my reality and I’ve had to deal with it. I think it makes me a more responsible mother to tell myself that. Each family has to deal with its own reality. I think that’s acceptable, as long as the well-being of the child is the first priority.

PC: How is your day-to-day relationship with your sister, one of the people who takes care of RC? Are you a demanding mother?

CD: My relationship with Linda is excellent. It’s not an employee-employer relationship, but about family. I’m very lucky that I’m able to entrust RC’s care to people I believe in and love. RC feels good about it, too. It’s like when I was little and my brothers and sisters would help my mother. It’s important for me to recreate that family atmosphere. It keeps things in perspective.

PC: Describe a typical family dinner at your home.

CD: I try to make mealtimes as much fun as possible. No glitz, no glamour; just people who love each other sitting around the table talking about their day. Humour also plays a big part in our lives. It helps keep the balance. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and we laugh together as a family. I want RC to appreciate that. I believe that even in hard times, laughter helps a great deal, especially for children.

PC: Which values do you want to instill in RC?

CD: For me, family is the bedrock of society. Respect, confidence and openness are essential. I hope to raise my children up even higher than me. I want to give them the tools they need to become fulfilled adults. Being brought up in a rich family isn’t a measure of success. Love, self-esteem and stability are what help a child succeed, and those things can’t be bought, you have to pass them on. A sense of duty is also something that we advocate at home.

PC: In a past interview you said that even though RC may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, his values would stay the same. Do you think that you’ve succeeded, now that he is older?

CD: Absolutely. His heart is in the right place. He is a sensitive and generous boy. He’s eager to please and applies himself in whatever he undertakes. He knows that in order to succeed, he must work hard. We often tell him about the path we took to get where we are today, and that he will have to do the same in order to fulfill his dreams. We may have spoiled him a bit, but there is a big difference between having everything, and having everything and not appreciating what you’ve got.

PC: Is that why you brought your son with you on the Taking Chances world tour last year?
CD: No. RC already had a very strong desire to be generous and helpful
before the tour, but interacting with children his own age, who often
lived in terrible circumstances, was a very valuable life lesson for

PC: Has your son grown and changed after the tour – not only in terms of experience, but also in terms of his outlook on global issues?

I know he has, but it’s hard to know just how big an impact it has made
because he’s still so young. The older he gets, the more we will be
able to see how the experience has affected him, and how he will make it
part of his life and character.

You are involved in charitable work in a very personal way. You don’t
just donate money to causes, but also your time. Why is that?

I believe in people helping people. Not so long ago, cooperation among
individuals within a community was part of the social fabric, but
nowadays, more structured and commercial organizations have taken over.
It’s important for people to listen, to give love, to give happiness
aspirations to a child who has never had those things. There is nothing
more gratifying than making a difference in a child’s life – one at a
time, if that’s what it takes. That’s what my family and I love doing.
We are involved in a number of causes that we believe in deeply, and to
see a smile or get a hug from a child in need is our greatest reward!

PC: So you also get something positive by helping people?

I think I may even get more out of it than the recipients do. We learn
from these children; we grow as people from these women and children.
These visits force us to look within ourselves and to realize how lucky
we really are. Everyone I’ve met who has gone through great hardship or
misery has given me strength. Thanks to them, I am a stronger woman.

Published in August 2010

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