The superstar singer and new face of L'Oréal opens up about how she's rebuilt her life after the death of husband Rene Angélil

By Janine Rubenstein
April 03, 2019 04:25 PM

The past three years have been a difficult journey for Céline Dion, but she’s come out the other side a new woman.

“He gave his all for me,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, speaking of late husband and manager René Angélil, who died on Jan. 14, 2016 following a protracted battle with throat cancer.

In the years since Dion — who is now raising their sons Rene-Charles, 18, and 8-year-old twins Nelson and Eddy, alone — has found her strength and followed new passions. Named the new face of L’Oréal Paris, the superstar singer is wrapping up her record-breaking Vegas residency this summer and has become a new style icon due in part to the help of dancer, stylist and close pal Pepe Muñoz. “I’ve never felt as beautiful, as strong, and I really think the best is yet to come,” she says.

Credit: Denise Truscello for L’Oréal Paris

For more on Celine Dion and how she’s rebuilding her life after tragedy, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

It’s a triumphant state following the most difficult time in her life. “To see your husband suffer and dying slowly…The passing of my husband has been difficult,” says Dion. “You try to help the person you love the most. You watch TV shows with them and bring the children to say goodnight to Papa, tell them to be careful [with him]. That’s all good, but then you feel that boat and it’s sinking a little bit.”

Trying to keep things afloat, Dion took a year off from her nightly show to be by his side. Her return to the Caesar’s Palace stage in 2016 was not her idea. “He wanted me to go back,” she says of Angélil. “That was the hardest for me, because I never knew if I was going to come home and it’s going to be over.”

Credit: Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello for L’Oréal Paris

The night before Angélil died, he called his wife backstage and, with what little voice he had left wished her a good show and sent his love. The next morning, “he was gone to his next life,” says Dion.

Then came the difficulty of comforting her boys. “To bring my children to understand ‘Don’t look for dad,’ that made me strong,” she says. She also lost her brother to cancer two days after Angélil. “All the little things, and the big things, they have to make you stronger,” says the star. “Otherwise you don’t understand the meaning of life itself.”

Credit: Denise Truscello for L’Oréal Paris

And she’s putting the newfound strength to good use. “Suddenly I’m making all of the decisions,” she says of taking control of her personal life and multi-million dollar career. “All of my life I’ve had so much protection. I’m the 14th child of a family. I had a big army.” Being discovered by Angélil at a young age, “I never had time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. It just happened.”

But at 51 Dion is proud to say, “I’m the boss now.”