It's easy to mock Celine Dion.

She makes what many consider to be schmaltzy music - sentimental power ballads that have soundtracked some of Hollywood's biggest dramas. And she's prone to somewhat theatrical tendencies - frequently pulling hand gestures and facial expressions that are captured, somewhat unflatteringly, on camera.

Her wardrobe choices can only be described as eclectic. At times, downright eccentric, and have become the subject of many a cruel headline over her nearly 40-year career.

And yet when she announced her return to New Zealand last week - her first show here in more than 20 years - thousands of fans across the country were ecstatic. For them, she is a queen and they will line the aisles of Spark Arena to celebrate the royal visit.


But while Dion may boast one of the strongest, most dynamic voices in the music industry, the French-Canadian star is most definitely not a diva.

On the night of our interview, one of several ahead of her major tour announcement, things are running late. Two hours after our scheduled time, and well past midnight in Las Vegas where she is taking calls, the singer comes on the line.

Immediately she apologises for keeping me waiting, her voice warm and full of concern.

Despite the late hour, she is full of energy, giving every question her full attention.

As it turns out, Celine may love to sing but she also loves to chat. So much so, our allocated interview time is quickly eaten up before we get even halfway through my question list.

Anyone who has seen her live or watched interviews with her will know she still carries a distinct French-Canadian accent. She has the rather charming habit of applying French sentence structures to English, resulting in slightly odd turns of phrase.

Rather than try to hide those quirks or correct them, we felt it best to leave them in their original form. With that in mind, we present, Celine: Unfiltered.



Canceling a recent show due to illness….

"It's very frustrating to cancel a show and stay in bed and have soup after soup. The most frustrating part is letting people down. You keep thinking about the fans. If you let them down and they've traveled, it's just very hard. It's not hard to be sick, it's not hard to do the show, it's hard to think about them."

On the fan who recently accosted her on stage in Vegas…

"Sometimes people come and really insist on shaking my hand or just to say hello. I have a tendency to be an open book. I like to touch and feel people. The person, unfortunately, was in distress. She needed assistance. I thought she just wanted to say hello. She came on stage and took my microphone… The most important thing is that nobody got hurt.

Celine Dion proved once again that she's a class act as she kept her cool as an overexcited fan humped her during a recent performance. / Video supplied by Matthias de Groot.

"She was losing it a little bit. She was stressed and scared. She saw the security guards come and I said 'don't worry about it'. I said: 'Look at me. It's 2018. It's going to get better, you have to believe, it's going to be alright. Give me your hand. I'm with you.' I really thank the people in the audience because 4000 people did not say a word for about five minutes or so. I thanked them and said, 'listen, this person needs help and you guys gave her the opportunity to talk. She needed to talk tonight'.

"I don't regret what I did at all. I think she needed to say it and get it out. I'm not scared because I have wonderful people protecting me. Hopefully, she's fine and I wish her the very best."

On the power of positivity...

"I'm so positive - I'm going to tell you a story. When my husband was still alive, I said to him: 'We're having a party tomorrow and they're saying it's going to rain a lot'. He said: 'Don't be so negative'. I said, 'I'm not negative. It's saying there's a 90% chance of rain. I'm not being negative. I'm just being realistic. Look at the Weather Channel - it says 90% chance of rain and thunder. If you think it's not going to rain tomorrow, ain't going to be no party. I'm SO positive that I'm going to get a tent or rent a hotel and we're going to change the destination of the party and the party will still go on'. This is how positive how I am. The party went on because I am positive.

"I try to be very positive. I want my kids to be independent, thankful and positive. Positivity brings you .. it helps you find good stuff and what's right for you or wrong for you. You can't love everyone and you can't like everything. You have to learn to say 'this is for me and this is not for me'. Being positive makes you see better."


On how she has remained grounded despite her enormous success...

"It has to do with the way that I grew up and my parents, the way that they raised the whole family. And after that, when I met Rene, I was 12 years old. He surrounded me with the best people. He always protected me from, not what we want to do, but what we need to do. Many, many times, it was very hard for him but he always said to me: 'How many times I have to say no when we needed the money or we needed to do that but it was not going to be a good deal for you. It was hard to say no but it was the best thing to do.' What it does is give you a sense of stability and you envision your future differently."

On why the show must go on…

"The Show Must Go One is one of my husband's favourite songs and before he passed, he really wanted to see me on stage. He did not physically see me on stage, he did not come to the Coliseum but we hooked up a satellite so he could watch on his television. He wanted to really make sure before he let go and passed away, that I was fine on stage. That the fans were reacting, that the rest of my life was on stage and I could still sing and everything's going to be fine. The Show Must Go On was part of the show because it was his favourite and it's still part of the show until we decide to change but for now it still feels right. When it feels right to take it off and move on, we will."

On her fans - and her music...

"You have to love music to reach your fans. And you have to have fans for you to be able to sing the songs you love the right way. It's a two-way thing. It's like a companion or a relationship. If I love a song and I don't have anyone to look in the eyes or to reach inside. If I don't have love inside me or children, a husband, a fan, it will be difficult for me too, how do I say, to sell my song.

"There are songs that I started to sing 30 years ago - and they were good, they were great songs. They were good because my fans still want to hear them and for a reason that is extraordinary, today I enjoy singing those songs more than before because the fans now they know me beyond my songs. When I sing the song, I feel that they know me. When I look at them, they know me well, I feel like I know them. I know them through my songs and they know me through my songs.

"When the curtain is closed, I'm not going to hide to you that sometimes I'm like 'oh no, not that song again'. And when the curtain opens, I look at their faces and they make it alive for the first time again. They are there for the first time and they are like 'oh my god, we can't believe we are in front of her and she's going to sing it for me.' They think and they believe that I am singing it for them personally. And that's what you want them to feel like."

On why she is leaving Las Vegas...

"I decided that it's wonderful to be in Las Vegas at Caesar's at the Coliseum because I go home to the arms of my children and I do about 70 shows a year. And it's fun. It's a different energy. When you go in a theatre, it's more classical, like an opera, but when you go on tour it's rock n roll. It's very, very different. It's fun just to change the atmosphere, it's wonderful. If it's only the fans coming here, they come here so much. I think it's my turn to visit you. After the holidays they can save some money. I'm going to come to them, it's my turn."