By Ellen Piligian
Gaynor used to be a self-described Cadillac person. Then in 1997,
her husband decided to present her with a Christmas gift in the form
of his car of choice — a black cherry Jaguar.
fell in love with it, says Gaynor, who could almost be describing
herself as she explains what she loves about her new favorite car.
I like the comfort, the beauty, the performance. Its a
big car that doesnt look really big. Its sleek, fashionable.
Its ageless. It has a lot of stuff inside. I like the sound
system, the CD player. Its a classic.
who came to fame in the 1970s as the Queen of Disco with her hit songs
I Will Survive and Never Can Say Goodbye,
has found comfort in herself after years of feeling empty and alone
in the wake of her enormous success. She is known to be fashionable
and beautiful, having recently signed with the Wilhelmina Modeling
Agency as a full-figure model. And like the Jaguar, shes ageless,
a classic and enduring star.
may not be at the pinnacle of fame as she was in the mid-70s,
but Gaynor has far from faded away. If there seems to be only a recent
resurgence in her popularity, she says thats true only in the
United States. Shes been touring Europe for years.
traveled to about 80 countries, Gaynor said. Many of them
I travel to consistently. Some I travel to three, four, five times
a year, doing concerts, including South America. Im quite busy.
She performs about 100 times a year.
recently released album, Its My Time, features a new
hit single by the same name. Shes also promoting I Will Survive:
The Gloria Gaynor Anthology, a collection of songs that defined
her career. Beyond performing, Gaynor penned her autobiography, I
Will Survive, which chronicles her rise to fame, struggles with
success, and, finally, finding peace through her relationship with
God. The book, soon to be out in paperback, is also being considered
for a movie.
things keeping her busy include being bestowed the title Godmother
of the French Federation Soccer Team, which adopted I Will Survive
as their official team song. I even have my own official T-shirt,
says Gaynor, whos become a fan of the sport. In May, she opened
the ceremonies for Revlons Walk for Womens Cancers in
New York City, where she performed with her church choir to help raise
money for cancer research. Its an opportunity to bring
awareness about cancers and encourage people to donate funds for research
and care, says Gaynor, who lost her mother to lung cancer in
also helped raise more than $200,000 for Kosovo refugees in May. In
June, her Web site debuted (www.gloriagaynor.com), and shes
been busy taking acting lessons with the hope of doing some film and
for her modeling career, Gaynor is thrilled with that new role. Im
hoping to add to the throng of plus-size models who are helping to
make the world understand that the average woman is not size four
and its okay to not be a size four, she said. You
can still be beautiful. And her big hope is to host a talk show
about relationships, something thats already in the works.
who wont divulge her age (Just as old as my tongue and
a little older than my teeth, is all shell say) and lives
in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, with her manager/husband of 20 years,
Linwood Simon. Gaynor always knew shed be a singer. She grew up in
Newark, N.J., with five brothers and one sister. Her father
sang professionally and her mother, a seamstress, had a beautiful
voice. Gloria was always singing around the house and constantly had
the radio on. She got her first break in show business at age 17,
when one night she was asked to come on stage and sing in a night
club. At the time, she was working in a local department store during
the day, but she knew there was something more for her out there.
was always, in the back of my mind, temporary for me, she admits
today. The only job I could ever see doing permanently from
9 to 5, even as a child, was teaching, which is why I believe the
television [talk] show will be a turning point for me, bringing me
into the ministry. You dont have to be in a classroom to teach.
there is one thing she would like most to teach, one piece of wisdom
she would most like to share, Gaynor says it is this — Seek truth and
surrender to it.
Unfortunately, people have a difficult time
living up to their potential for greatness, Gaynor said. We
are beings who tend to surrender to the desires of our flesh, and
our flesh is always going to take the course of least resistance.
If the truth is saying, I can be a doctor, but along with that
is the truth that its going to take me 12 years of college,
the flesh is going to say, I cant be a doctor.
had her own lapses in the past. Her success in the disco days nearly
led to her downfall, when she gave into the excesses of partying.
Then, in the early 80s, she had a rebirth when she rediscovered
her faith in God.
had always believed in God. In fact, she tells of how that helped
her when she met Simon and knew he was the man shed marry. She
was working with his singing sisters at the time, whom Simon, a music
publisher, was managing. Gaynor recalls going to their house one day
to get the girls to go to work:
had made a date with another brother [Kenny] but had seen [Linwoods]
picture earlier and decided he was going to be my husband. She
got frantic at the thought of dating both. I dont date
brothers, she said. I would never do that. But,
she says, she had faith in God that it would be okay. Sure enough,
Kennys car broke down that night and the only one he could find
to bring him was Linwood. Kenny kind of got left aside. Linwood and
I have been together ever since.
her faith in God was different then. I was what I called religious,
she relates. Now I have a personal relationship with Christ.
That relationship developed in 1982. Until then, Gaynor, who calls
herself a non-denominational Christian, says she went through the
motions of going to church: I always believed I had a gift from
God that I was to share with the world. That was the extent of it.
Now I believe I have a number of gifts from God that I am to share.
I also believe I am to be a lot more deliberate about it and consistently
seek guidance from God for what he wants me to do.
who once felt empty and uncertain about her role in life, says her
purpose is clear now. I believe what youre passionate
about is your purpose, she explains. God has given all
of us gifts and attributes and talents to share with the world, and
he wants us to enjoy them also.
view of success has changed accordingly. Its [not about]
how big your bank account is or the material things youve gathered.
Its being able to do what you want to do when you want to do
it. Success is making your way through life, your fortune in life,
at what youre passionate about. Its having the things
in life that are important to you, being of service to other people,
but never allowing yourself to feel poor because you dont have
what someone else has.
days, Gaynor is unassuming about her own success. Able to enjoy a
certain degree of anonymity in her daily life, she says she often
doesnt even realize when people recognize her.
sometimes get the impression that Im aloof, she admits.
I just dont think anybody wants to talk to me. I dont
believe anybody wants my autograph or picture. Ive had people
say, I thought you were so stuck up.
fact, despite her busy schedule, she says she simply enjoys staying
home and cooking for Simon (with whom she has no children but has
49 nieces and nephews) and watching The X-Files when they
get the chance. Any extra time goes to her hobby, her passion, studying
find it fascinating, Gaynor said. Its the only research
that Ive ever been able to do and enjoy. I get lost in it. I
can do it for hours.
there is one thing Gaynor is most proud of in her life, she says its
that her personal image is a clean one: The controversial, juicy
stuff in my life can be written on the head of a pin with room [to
in the end, though many may remember her for her song I Will
Survive, Gaynor says shed like to be remembered for something
else: being a giving person of integrity.