Advertisement

Shania Twain on Officially Becoming a Barbie, After Having to Choose Between Guitars and Dolls as a Child

Man — she feels like a Barbie. And is one, officially, now: Shania Twain has had a one-of-a-kind Barbie made in her likeness by Mattel. The singer joins Viola Davis, Helen Mirren, Kylie Minogue and several other renowned entertainers or activists who are getting their own signature dolls as part of Mattel’s celebration of International Woman’s Day March 8.

To get one thing out of the way right away: These dolls are one-offs, so you will not be able to go to the store and get your own Shania or Kylie or Viola or Helen doll. (Nor one representing Mexican filmmaker Lila Avilés, Brazilian content creator Maira Gomez, Japanese model Nicole Fujita or German comedian and activist Enissa Amani, the other international celebrities who have had singular Barbies made in their honor.)

More from Variety

Realizing that there would be no way to personally own a “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” Barbie came as crushing news at the very beginning of our conversation with Twain, but we composed ourselves and carried on in a Zoom call to discuss what Barbie means to Shania. (Beyond the International Woman’s Day tie-in, the Barbie brand is also celebrating its 65th anniversary with a Barbie Dream Gap Project partnership with Inspiring Girls International.)

When they contacted you and wanted to make a Barbie of you, were you saying, “Well, of course — what took you so long?” Or did you have questions?

I was honored and flattered because what this particular Barbie is representing is what I try to represent. It’s a playful world. I take being a role model seriously, without taking myself too seriously. I mean, I use a sense of humor in all of my songwriting, and I try to be myself, which is a playful person, but still saying what I need to say. And some of the things are quite bold, that I say as a woman. And I enjoy inspiring others. It’s part of my pleasure of being an artist. So this Barbie represents empowering girls to dream and imagine beyond what they may think is possible. Because the imagination is a free space where they can explore their own recognition of self-potential.

This Barbie includes the iconic “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” outfit, but has the pink hair we saw you sporting when you played the Hollywood Bowl last year, which is interesting.

This exact Barbie is a replica of me on the “Queen of Me” tour. So even though the “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” outfit is a replica of the classic look from the (1999) video, I wore that classic outfit on tour (in 2023) — the original hat, everything — but I wore contemporary hair. So I introduced my new playful self and the new, experimental me onto the stage along with my classic self. And Barbie respected that, and it was a collaborative effort. I’m so flattered that they respected that. You know, classic means classic; it means older, it means it’s been around for a while. But it is just really fun to bring that into now.

Has your perception of Barbie changed at all over the years, from when you were a girl? The movie kind of plays with the idea that she’s feminist, but that people might have thought of her for a time as an antithesis of feminism, or just a girl’s aspirational thing.

Well, I love your take on the movie and the intentions. You know, it took me a really, really long time as a kid to believe that, when it came to being a girl first, or a thinker first… do you get to be both at the same time? Or which order do you put forward? Which one are you gonna be judged for? This is what I was thinking as a kid; I don’t think my adult self is ever gonna look like this when I’m 8. I’m thinking being a girl is a disadvantage, and if I put the girl first, then they’re not going to take what I’m thinking seriously.

So Barbie for me was escapism. Barbie was able to do all of it. Barbie was able to be beautiful and still do all these incredible things. It was almost unrealistic, but that was what led me to use my imagination. I played Barbie all the time as a kid, but I never owned a Barbie. I made my own Barbies. So what Barbie represented to me as a kid was a place to imagine what I couldn’t imagine would ever really be possible. It was my great escape. I could speak with any accent I wanted. I could be from any country. I created all my own dialogue, all my own stories, all my own characters. They all had different names; I made up names. The sky was the limit. Living in an imaginary world is very, very important to all kids.

And even though I didn’t own a Barbie, because it was more important for me to have a guitar, for example… The irony there was I was telling stories on my guitar musically, but I was writing dialogue and building characters through the Barbie concept. And then it manifested itself where I’m able to have it all in the end. I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to actually manifest my thinking and my visions of clothing and aesthetics.

So that’s why, when I describe the “Barbie” film, I focus on the fact that they got the message across without compromising the aesthetics and the glory of the colorful beauty and detail of Barbie. The artistic side didn’t overshadow the message, nor did the message overshadow the art. The movie achieved the contrast successfully with humor, and I thought it was brilliant in that sense. And that’s what I strive to do. I strive never to compromise one for the other, and it’s a hard thing to achieve. I think “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” achieved it. I feel so lucky that it did, and that they agreed that “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” was the right image for this Barbie.

What makes the outfit iconic?

You know, the outfit was very structured. It was quite demanding, as a silhouette. You know, with the strong hats, it was all business. And then it deconstructs and things start to fly away and the spirit of the woman starts to come out. It’s a woman that created it in the first place… I’m saying in my case, and I mean also for Barbie; it’s a woman that created Barbie. The creative space was me speaking my authentic self, as an exclamation — “Man! I feel like a woman!” — and I really mean it. I enjoy being in my own skin, but still getting my message across.

Just to go back…you said you had to make your own Barbies, because there was no money if you had to buy guitars instead?

I loved getting a guitar. That was such a joy for me. I couldn’t make my own guitar, but I could make my own Barbies.

So, not to give any kids out there any ideas that would keep them from buying Mattel products, of course… but what did you make your own Barbies out of?

I made them out of grass.

Wow.

And I just lived out my Barbie dream. They did what every Barbie does: They talked to each other. They interacted. I gave them all dialogue. I would love to recreate that again! My other friends had Barbies, and they weren’t made of grass, and I thought they would make fun of me. So the only person that I ever shared my play with was my baby sister, and she would play grass with me. She would play Barbie grass.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.