A Drag Queen's Love Letter To Celine Dion

Photo by Philippe Blet/REX/Shutterstock.
You know that feeling when you cottoned onto something very culturally important super-early, and then everyone is like 'OMG. Have you SEEN this video of a guy using a drill to eat a corn-on-the-cob?' and you decide to remain silent, even though you were probably one of the first ten people who saw the viral vid in question? Well this is exactly how I feel about what is happening with my radiant queen of heaven, my saviour, my love, Ms. Celine Marie Claudette Dion right now. My generation are finally waking up to her fabulousness, about two decades too late, and this time, I’m not staying quiet. This time is the last time!

The French-Canadian singer has had a personally difficult year, facing the loss of her husband and manager René Angélil, as well as her brother Daniel, in the same week. The tragedy saw the five Grammy award winner take a recess from her flawless Vegas show in order to grieve. Professionally, Celine is being honoured, receiving the Billboard ICON Award earlier this year, and being papped stepping out in some of this season’s strongest looks – head to toe in Vetements, Gucci and Dior, no less – giving rise to the iconic hashtag #SlaylineDion. Then, last weekend, she appeared on the stage of the Jimmy Fallon show like the true warrior she is, and did an exquisite impersonation of Rihanna (which you must watch here.)

Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images.
Celine attends the Giambattista Valli Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2016-2017.
All of this has led to what feels like a new wave of appreciation; thousands of click-savvy millennials having their ‘Celine moment’ and fashion magazines finally putting her on their cultural radar. This is fantastic news, yes: more press for Celine means more of the good stuff for me. But a word of warning: you are Misled if you think you can pick Celine up and put her down like some passing trend. Treat her like a Lady.

As a riposte to the potential ephemerality of Celine’s public favour, it is time to do what I was born to do: spread the word of Dion, or at least, explain the depths from which she saved my soul. It’s all coming back to me now: I was a seven year old repressed homosexual boy living in Morecambe, a town in Lancashire, who had three pounds to drop in Woolworths. Lo and behold the bargain bin was filled with Celine Dion goodies – how they got there I don’t know? – and for the handsome sum of two of those three pounds I went home the lucky owner of one Let’s Talk About Love CD, and one Celine Dion: Live in Memphis 1997 VHS. This is the day my life changed forever.

After obsessing over my VHS of Celine in a gold lame jacket-jumpsuit combo every single day for six months, I finally asked my grandma to make me a black sequinned dress as a replica of Celine’s closing look. Each night, I would get home from school and slip into the long black bandeau-spaghetti strapped piece, ready to give the lip sync of my life to "Let’s Talk About Love". Locked in my dining room, where we were luckily storing a family-friend’s chaise-lounge, it is here, at seven, I formed the basic diva behaviours that would carry me through to this very moment. I listened to that album so much that it melted.

When you ask me what it is I love about my favourite icon it’s tough to come to one conclusion: Is it the time she wore a drop waist ra-ra skirt during her winning, historical Eurovision performance in 1988? Was it the time she released the best song ever to date: Incognito? Is it the fact that she has always been 50, never more, never less? Was it when she wore that white suit backwards, with matching fedora, to the 1999 Oscars? How about when she released the video for One Heart? What about when she was so impassioned after hurricane Katrina she told America to "take a kayak!"? How about her deeply sincere and competitive collab with Barbra Streisand?
Photo: Jim Smeal/WireImage.
Yes, it’s all of these things. But as a young gay boy from a small, working-class town up north, it was Celine Dion who was the first person who ever understood me. At seven I didn’t fit my prescribed gender category, due, mostly, to my love of power ballads, air-punches and all things that sparkle. Unsurprisingly, there were no men around me who I felt I had affinity with. I looked up to my mother and my grandma, sure – both remarkable people – but they took on the domestic roles in the family, which wasn’t something I dreamt of for my future either.

Celine Dion then, for me, was a woman who had stepped away from the domestic role and formed a career based on her incredible, God-given talent. She was feminine in the way I wanted to be feminine (glamourous but with humility), and she was a global phenomenon in the way I wanted (OK, want) to be a global phenomenon. To this day Celine Dion has given me more power than any other person: in the face of constant homophobia at school I would dream of getting back home to my lip-syncing palace. As I went through the daily grind of having to hide my sexual and gender identity at school, she showed me poise, grace, passion, rawness and real emotion.
It took me a long time to be proud of the fact that I love Celine Dion. Unlike many other contemporary artists, there hasn't been an ounce of cool about admitting your idol is Celine Dion – it’s like telling people your favourite musical is Cats. But as the world turns in favour of Celine Dion, it is time we look beyond what we have traditionally thought of as cool. Here is an artist who has worked tirelessly to provide for her fans: she has learned Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, German, and English all so she could sing for her followers around the world. She has given up her life to gift us with her impeccable vocals, and she has given power to millions of uncool underdogs around the world.

The world may have forgotten Celine for a while, but now is the time to stand up and be counted, now is the time to make your declaration of love for Celine, our queen, because you love her.


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