The American Idol judge and music legend opens up to PEOPLE in this week's issue about lessons learned in life and in love — and the woman who has his heart

By Janine Rubenstein
April 18, 2019 10:00 AM
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Lionel in love!

The American Idol judge and music legend is currently dating long-time girlfriend Lisa Parigi. The star, 69, opened up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue about the lessons he’s learned over his near 50-year career in entertainment — including his hard-learned lessons in love.

“I’m a man who’s been through the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs of love,” says Richie.

Credit: Venturelli/Getty

He initially married high school sweetheart Debra Harvey, but the two — who together adopted daughter Nicole when she was just a toddler — went through a painful public split, divorcing in 1993.

Two years later Richie wed Diane Alexander with whom he welcomed kids Miles and Sofia, but the marriage ended in 2004.

“Love is not an exact science, it’s something you have to go through,” says Richie. “People don’t walk in love, people fall, which means you’re out of control, there’s no logic. How you survive is your story.”

Credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage
Credit: Steve Grayson/WireImage

Still, the star admits, “I’m a hopeless romantic.” He found love again with model and entrepreneur Lisa Parigi. “She’s extremely beautiful, but most importantly she’s smart and helps me deal with my crazy world,” says Richie of Parigi, who is of Swiss, Chinese and Caribbean descent and speaks four languages fluently.

Says Richie, “At this time in my life when you can be so jaded about things, [my girlfriend] Lisa kind of makes everything feel a bit safe.”

Parigi joined Richie for the honor of a lifetime, accompanying him to receive his 2017 Kennedy Center Honor alongside his kids. And there just may be another big event to come in their future.

“There’s always big plans,” he says, playing coy when asked whether he may take another trip down the aisle. “Do I have an exact time on this? Oh, hell no. I don’t. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sure.”

For more from Lionel Richie, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.