"I just couldn’t see myself partying for my 50th birthday without her," says the star in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE in this week's issue
The star-studded birthday bash of music mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs nearly broke the internet this week, with A-listers like JAY-Z and Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio and more all turning out and toasting with the star’s signature CÎROC cocktails in honor of his half-century mark.
“It was probably one of the most authentic nights of love that I ever experienced. I’m blessed,” says the music mogul, opening up exclusively to PEOPLE in this week’s issue, and speaking out for the first time since celebrating his milestone 50th birthday.
But despite how epic it all turned out to be, the man of the hour says his big night almost didn’t happen. “I canceled the party two times because I just couldn’t see myself partying for my 50th birthday without her,” says Combs, speaking of his ex Kim Porter, who died suddenly of pneumonia on Nov. 15, 2018.
The loss of Porter — whom he dated off-and-on for more than 10 years until their split in 2007 — gutted his family, including son Christian, 21, and twins D’Lila Star and Jessie James, 13, that they shared, as well as Porter’s son Quincy, whom he helped raise, and Combs’s two other kids Justin, 26, and Chance, 12, from other relationships.
And a year later the tragedy left Combs, who says he and Porter had “talked about my 50th birthday” feeling at odds with celebrating.
When his actual birthday rolled around on Nov. 4, he says, “I wasn’t feeling it,” and he opted for a quiet dinner over the type of blowout bash he’s known for. “I didn’t want to be fake. I wanted to be at a point of strength.”
But Combs — who was just named the 2020 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons honoree and will be celebrated at the annual pre-Grammy gala in January — later devised a meaningful solution, rescheduling for what would have been Porter’s 49th birthday weekend. “I thought, ‘I can have a party with Kim and we can party together,'” he says. And with 600 guests who turned out, partying to the star’s hits spun by DJ Cassidy and helping him usher in a new era, “It worked out beautifully.”
For more on Diddy’s milestone birthday and emotional journey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.