Céline Dion Once Refused To Accept An English Artist Award & Her Response Earned Praise

"I am not an anglophone artist."

Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
Céline Dion refuses to accept award at the 1990 ADISQ Gala.

Céline Dion refuses to accept award at the 1990 ADISQ Gala.

TVA

Céline Dion won the Félix Award for Anglophone Artist of the Year at the 1990 Gala de l'ADISQ, just as her English career was taking off. However, the Quebecoise singer and icon to be refused to accept the award, and her response, while gracefully delivered, earned praise all while sparking controversy.

The ADISQ gala recognizes and celebrates excellence in the Quebec music industry, and has been doing so since 1979, so Céline's triumph certainly doesn't come as a surprise. Although winning the Félix Award was a feat in and of itself, Céline wasn't in a celebratory mood whatsoever.

After announcing her name, a look of dread appeared on the singer's face, as though the news of her win was a disappointment rather than something to be proud of.

Céline Dion refuses to accept award at the 1990 ADISQ Gala. TVA

"I cannot accept this award," Céline said apprehensively.

"It is not because I am not proud of my English-language album, because on the contrary, I am very proud of it. I want to thank my team at CBS who have supported me and encouraged me all over the world as a Quebecoise singer. I want to thank the public because I think they understand that I am not an anglophone artist."

The room erupted in applause.

"Everywhere I go in the world I say I am proud to be Quebecoise," Céline continued. The singer even went as far as suggesting the execs at ADISQ change the name of the category to "Quebec Artist With The Most International Success," rather than "Anglophone Artist of the Year".

"I think it would be a much more fair reflection of the work artists do here, the work Quebec artists do here."

Well, that's exactly what the Gala de l'ADISQ did the following year — changing the category name to a rather wordy one instead: "Most Successful Quebec Artist Outside Quebec."

Despite receiving praise from audience members, viewers and fellow Quebec artists, Céline's words stirred up a media frenzy. Did she insult Quebecois anglophones? Did Céline imply being an English artist and a francophone are not mutually exclusive or that Quebecers could only be francophones?

The scandalous moment resulted in countless headlines and many questions, including from English-language Canadian media who previously barely did or failed to cover the Gala de l'ADISQ in years prior.

Considering Céline and her label pushed for her to expand into the English market throughout the 80s, it would be understandable for her first English album, Unison, to be nominated in the "Anglophone artist" category, but Céline's stance made it evident that she wished to be recognized as a francophone singer from Quebec with an English album. Talk about technicalities... but let's not forget the then-political context of Quebec's and francophones' place in Canada.

So, while Céline's choice of words didn't help her case, had she simply said, "the album's English babes, not me," perhaps the reaction wouldn't have been so all over the place.

Mike Chaar
Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
Mike Chaar is an Assistant Editor for MTL Blog focused on recalls in Canada and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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