Pop Crossover Shania Twain

Singer Deliberately Crossed The Line From Country To Pop Music

Shania Twain has become successful by deliberately crossing the line from country star to pop sensation.

When she burst onto the scene 10 years ago, she caught the eye of America. Now, at 38, she has fans that don't have to have Nashville loyalties to enjoy her music.

Her sexy image, along with her choice of songs - nearly all of which she wrote herself – has made her a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports.

Sex appeal is important to a star, and Shania seems to be everywhere you look. It's all part of a plan to keep her on top, which is where she landed after her 1999 album "Come On Over." It sold 34 million copies and made her the biggest-selling female solo artist of all time.

But in 2000, Shania took a step back. She was at the peak of her career, when most artists would be taking on the world. She stopped touring, and all but disappeared from the public eye.

"I guess I wanted a little break, because I've been going so strong for the last 7-8 years," says Shania. "I needed a little space to do that, and all combined and having a child at the same time … three years went by like that."

Shania's son, Aja, is almost 2 years old. "I'm a bit of a workaholic, so I suppose I'm the type of person who does need an excuse to relax," she says. "And pregnancy seemed to be the perfect one."

She lives in Switzerland, married to her producer, Mutt Lang, who's famous for his work with everyone from AC/DC to Celine Dion. He's also famous for his obsession with privacy.

"He is fanatical about his privacy," says Shania, who admits that she's much more of a hermit than he is. "I need a place to go when I just want to be me again, and I never want to lose touch of that -- of who I am."

Shania is an industry whose image these days is tightly controlled. And with a new world tour just getting under way, you have to catch a few minutes with her when you can.

She spent a big part of her childhood on stage, as a singer from the age of 8. She says her parents needed her to work nights as a singer, because money was scarce in the Canadian north woods town of Timmons, Ontario – about 500 miles north of Toronto.

"My parents struggled a lot ... five kids. We definitely couldn't make it to the grocery store every week, and made many mustard sandwiches for school just so the teachers wouldn't ask too many questions," recalls Shania. "There were always weeks and months when we were barely getting by, and really hungry a lot of times."

Her given name was Eileen, and she was a local star by the time she was a teenager. "I did well, I had a good little thing going," she says.

But just as the going got good, tragedy struck. Her parents were killed in a car accident and Shania became parent to her siblings.

"I was the oldest who was available to be their guardian. And it was difficult because we were all dealing with our grief, and dealing with it differently," says Shania.

"I don't regret any of my struggles in life. I've had to learn how to survive. I've had to dig down into my own creativity and say, 'Ok, you can be better.'"

But now, it's all different, and the only struggle she has might be against the critics – some of whom suggest it's "all navel."

How would she describe her video image? "Often sexy...playful at the same time," says Shania. "Videos are just something I step into, a role that you're playing. It's like dress-up time."

But in real life, Shania says she covers her midsection: "I never walk around with my midriff open, 'cause I just couldn't be bothered with worrying if my gut was hanging over or not."

So how does she stay in shape? "I don't take it too seriously. I watch what I eat. I'm naturally very active, I walk a lot," says Shania. "My stage performance is two hours long. Singing is very physical … you gotta breathe and walk and move and run. I'm doing a million things at once, and that keeps me in enough shape for my shows."

But for a kid who grew up singing in rundown bars in the middle of nowhere, it's some show.

Does she consider herself a pop star now, or still a country artist?

"I would definitely be considered a pop artist," says Shania. "My roots are country, that's for sure … As long as Dolly Parton always likes my music, then I think I'm safe."