Perched atop the performer hierarchy in Las Vegas, where she holds court in the Caesars Palace Colosseum, five-time Grammy winner Celine Dion could quite easily sit on her laurels.
But the 45-year-old mother of three is using her influence on new projects, working on a new album due out in October & co-producing the show of a fellow French Canadian songstress setting up shop across the street at Bally’s.
“I’m not looking to make friends in the business 'cause I want to do my job, I want to have a acceptable time & go home to my family,” Dion asserted in a recent interview with The Associated Press, sitting on stage next to a protege with whom she casually chatted in French. “But Veronic – it’s a different scenario. I’m not quite sure why. I want her to be my friend. I love her. I respect her very, very much.”
Veronic DiCaire – a winsome blonde from Ontario with boundless energy & just a wisp of an accent – previously opened for Dion during a 2008 tour stop in Montreal. In late June, she launched a two-month run of “Veronic Voices,” in which she impersonates 50 female artists ranging from Whitney Houston to Carrie Underwood & Lady Gaga.
In a city where it’s complex to stroll the sidewalk without running in to a Michael Jackson or Elvis impressionist, DiCaire’s struggle will be rising above the stigmatized title of impersonator – something Dion asserted DiCaire can do 'cause she “becomes” her characters.
“You’ve seen impersonators, you’ve seen men doing women, & women doing men,” Dion said. “Sometimes it’s funny, & sometimes it’s so exaggerated. We’ve seen it all. With Veronic it’s very, very different.”
DiCaire has a devoted French-speaking following after living in France, yet her Vegas show is her breakout in to the Anglophone world. Between summoning the huge voice of Amy Winehouse, mimicking the snappy stage gestures of her patroness Dion, & overdoing a Taylor Swift twang, she takes on a wide-eyed, country-girl-meets-big-city persona, at one point offering the self-deprecating quip “pardon my French” when she stumbled over her words.
If the show doesn’t take off, it won’t be for lack of a mentor. Dion wrote the textbook on creating a Vegas brand, filling up her 4,000-seat auditorium since she initially debuted there in 2003 & disproving doubters who wrote Las Vegas off as a retirement community for fading stars.
“Critics said, `Oh, my God, the Titanic’s going to sink again, she’s going to complete her career here,’” Dion recalled. “We took a chance. It worked really well for us.
“I don’t have to be here. The reason why I’m here is 'cause I’m really enjoying being here,” she added.
The Vegas appeal, Dion said, is skipping the exhausting tour schedule & going home every night to her producer husband & three boys: 12-year-old Rene Charles & twin 2-year-olds Eddy & Nelson.
The youngest ones are named after heroes – Eddy for French lyricist Eddy Marnay, whom Dion describes as her dad in show business, & Nelson for Nelson Mandela the ailing, 94-year-old former president of South Africa.
“We met with Mr. Mandela. It was a very amazing, privileged moment,” she asserted of the guy credited with helping end apartheid. “We both thought it’s a hero name … Nelson Mandela was representing something so positive & so grand.”
Apart from duties as mom & mentor, Dion plans to release her 1st English album in six years of time this fall. Challenged to keep things fresh after three decades of recording, she said, it includes some unexpected collaborations, in addition to one with R&B artist Ne-Yo.
“The producers & the songwriters kind of proposed, again, astonishing songs to me, & I received excited again,” she said. “The whole project was extraordinary.”