Gloria Gaynor Talks ‘I Will Survive’ TikTok Challenge: ‘Happy Birthday’ Is ‘No Fun'
The disco queen kicked off her now-viral #iwillsurvivechallenge on TikTok earlier this month
On March 10, the disco queen, 70, kicked off her now-viral #iwillsurvivechallenge on TikTok with a video of herself washing her hands with soap and water for 20 seconds to the song’s chorus, encouraging fans to curb the spread of the disease. (As the CDC has recommended, the best coronavirus prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.)
“People need to be reminded to wash their hands at a time like this,” Gaynor tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday. “Someone had publicized doing it to ‘Happy Birthday,’ but that’s no fun when you’re not singing it to anybody. ‘I Will Survive’ is definitely something you can sing to yourself and have great fun doing it.”
As of publishing time, the hashtag for Gaynor’s challenge has 4.1 million views on TikTok, a feat which Gaynor calls “incredible.”
“I never, ever expected it,” she says, before adding with a laugh, “I mean, I get kids 4 and 5 years old — who just learned to sing — singing this song. What have you survived? Birth?”
When Gaynor first released “I Will Survive” back in 1978, she says she couldn’t have anticipated the lasting impact it would have more than four decades later.
“When you’re that young, you don’t think that far ahead,” she says. “But I did think that it would be popular because I felt that just hearing the words ‘I will survive’ would uplift and encourage people about whatever they were going through.”
In addition to her #iwillsurvivechallenge, Gaynor is also hosting what she calls “I Will Survive Mondays” every Monday on her Instagram Live, where she talks to her fans in an effort to uplift and encourage them.
“I just like to spread joy, peace and love,” she says. “It’s corny, but it’s needed by everybody. I’m happy to be a positive influence in anybody’s life.”
Currently self-isolating in her vacation villa in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Gaynor says that while she is practicing social-distancing physically, she’s still keeping in touch with those closest to her.
“I’m on the phone with people and doing FaceTime and being quite social — and not getting as much done with the book I am writing as I wanted,” she says. “At the end of each night I’m wondering, ‘What did I do? Where did the time go?'”
- For more on Gloria Gaynor, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
Gaynor has also been keeping busy cooking at home, making her oxtail strudel and lasagna recipes, and leaning on her faith to get her through, just as she has always done in difficult times.
“Without my faith, I probably would not have survived my mother’s death which happened not long before I recorded ‘I Will Survive,'” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to sing that with as much fervor. My siblings and my parents are all gone. And, you know, to survive all of that and survive the loss of a couple of friends, my faith has helped me. It’s certainly helping me now with what we’re going through and being able to console other people. It’s all because of my faith.”
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Despite all that’s going on in the world, Gaynor says she has a lot to be grateful for.
“I am so grateful for the friends that I have that are like family,” she says. “I call them ‘frams,’ friends that are like family. I’m very grateful for my ‘frams’ because they have made my life so much easier and have brought so much joy to me. They share their children with me that I don’t have. It’s just wonderful.”
“I’m grateful for my talent, my voice,” she adds. “I’m grateful for how it has been received around the world. I’m grateful for my opportunities to travel and experience other cultures and other people and the luxury that I have in my life. I’m grateful as well for my health and strength. I’m very, very grateful for my doctor, who did my last surgery on my spine without whom I probably would not be even walking right now. Listen, I am so filled with gratitude because I have so much to be grateful for.”
As one might expect, Gaynor’s message to her fans out there is “we will survive.”
“This too shall pass,” she says. “When we return to normal, I hope that we turn it into a new normal of love and appreciation for one another, appreciation for all of the things that we miss and were taking granted before this happened.”
And as to what she’s most looking forward to personally when this is all over? “Traveling, doing another gospel album — and lots and lots of hugs from my ‘frams,'” she says.
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