When you’re interviewing Celine Dion, especially for a fashion magazine, there’s one question that simply must be asked. It’s the backward white Dior elephant in the room: What was up with the suit she wore to the Oscars in 1999?
“The only thing I have to say about that is, if I had to do it again, I would do the exact same thing,” Dion states, defending the ensemble she wore when picking up an Academy Award for the little ditty “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. “I’m very comfortable in my body, suit forward or backward. At the Oscars this year, I wanted to play a trick and wear the same suit forward. I did not.”
Indeed, that now iconic suit sparked an endless round of Dion-in-Dior jokes that snowballed. (It should be noted, however, that Suzy Menkes of The International Herald Tribune was a fan, and that Women’s Wear Daily, W’s sister publication, applauded Dion’s chutzpah, if not her actual look.) Since then, Dion has more often than not been mocked, like a predictable punch line, whenever she’s made that long, lonely red- carpet walk. True, she has cultivated the onstage image of a Las Vegas performer—a dramatic, chest-thumping diva with grand outfits, overcoiffed hair and heavy stage makeup. She donned a crazy tiaralike headdress and elaborately fussy gown for her 1994 wedding to her manager, René Angélil, and chose an extravagant gold Givenchy number for their 2000 vows renewal. But when she sits down for this interview, interrupting a brief family holiday, she looks refreshingly pretty and, yes, chic in a blue and white polkadot Balmain sundress.
This, one suspects, is probably an accurate portrait of the day-to-day Celine Dion, the off-duty girl, a polite, chatty woman who nevertheless counts the seconds till she can rush home to be with her six-year-old son, René Charles. Curled into a groovy red and white ball chair—at a business associate’s house that she has chosen as an interview site—Dion has pulled one tanned knee up to her chest and is determinedly picking at a patch of sunburn on her shin. “I’m very comfortable in my skin,” she reiterates, this time adding jokingly, “even though it’s peeling.” She’s clearly enjoying this little exercise, creating a tableau that is the complete antithesis of her usual public image. And well she should, since in this almost-natural state, she’s very attractive, with striking bone structure and an enviably long, lean body with great legs.