Gloria Gaynor can still remember the exact moment she decided to pull the plug on her 26-year marriage to her manager, Linwood Simon.
The “I Will Survive” singer was out of the house when she was struck by a debilitating migraine headache for the second time in a span of a few days — and Simon, she says, had no interest in taking her to the hospital.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m done. You really, truly don’t care about me, and I’m done.’ I’d have to be freakin’ comatose not to get that,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “My friend nailed it when she said it was disregard. You don’t know how painful that can be until you experience it. [Leaving him] was extremely liberating.”
Gaynor, 79, credits a religious awakening she had in the 1980s with helping her find the strength she needed to finally file divorce papers against Simon in 2004.
The Grammy-winning star married Linwood, her longtime (and now former) manager, in 1979, and explains that with him, she found the sense of security that she’d long sought after growing up with an absent father. Though Gaynor says their union had “wonderful moments,” she admits it was never balanced. She wanted to have children, and he did not, but she “swallowed whatever he said and did whatever he said and just let him have his way.”
Jean-Jacques BERNIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Gloria Gaynor and Linwood Simon in Paris in 1984
Now, with the heartbreak of her split in her rearview, Gaynor says she’s “very happy” these days — and while she’s content being single, wouldn’t say no should the right person come along.
“I absolutely believe in love,” she says. “Whether it’s in the cards for me, I sincerely doubt it, ’cause I’m truly not interested anymore. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m good. It’s a wonderful place to be.”
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Gaynor has plenty to focus on in the coming year: in addition to the release of a long-awaited documentary as well as a new fragrance, the star will turn 80 in September, and will celebrate the 45th anniversary of “I Will Survive” in October. (See the music video, released in honor of International Women’s Day, below.)
The classic disco anthem — which was originally the B-side to her single “Substitute,” but became a major hit anyway thanks to radio play — has demonstrated its enduring popularity in a major way over the last year. In April, Harry Styles brought Lizzo on stage to sing it during his headlining Coachella set, and Miley Cyrus interpolates it in her current chart-topper “Flowers.”
“I have not only survived, I have thrived,” Gaynor reflects. “I really think a lot of it has to do with the fact that whenever I’m going through something, I have used that song.”