Gloria Gaynor, best known for her disco-era hits “I Will Survive” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” also is proud of a lesser-known talent – imparting wisdom to bright-eyed high schoolers.
Gaynor stopped by Socastee High School on Tuesday for a flashy show by Farrah Beaudry’s chorale classes.
Students, clad in sparkly outfits, sang and danced to a remixed version of “I Will Survive.” The students then asked the pop legend questions about her life, decades-long career, and show business.
“The best thing, the most important, powerful thing you can do in life is to make a name for yourself,” Gaynor said. “Because your character is all you have.”
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Gaynor fielded about 15 questions, ranging from her big break to favorite place to perform, and encouraged students to be themselves both on- and off-stage.
“If you are a loving, giving person, you can do that on stage,” Gaynor said. “My performances are a love affair between me and my audience.”
Sophomore Shelley Gruenberg earned the most laughs with her question: “Is it super duper cool to be recognized at the store?”
After the laughter died down, Gaynor said it’s difficult to always react appropriately to the attention, but she’s thankful for all the recognition she receives from fans.
“Even when you’re tired or cold, and you don’t really want to be bothered, it’s still super duper cool for people to recognize you,” Gaynor said. “You don’t really want it to stop.”
The songstress told students that individuality matters, and everyone has their own God-given gift to share with the world.
“It’s so much easier to be who you are on stage,” Gaynor said. “You are a designer’s original.”
Gaynor said her big break came when she was “discovered” by a Columbia Records producer at a Newark, N.J. club. Now, at 65, she’s performed in more than 80 countries and works to teach young people how to maintain a career in entertainment and how to maintain their character through the years.
“There are certain elements that are not inherent to the entertainment business, but ought to be,” Gaynor said. “The only way to maintain them through the generations is to pass it on.”
The Queen of Disco was in Myrtle Beach for a vacation – and to escape the cold of New Jersey – when a friend who works at Socastee High mentioned chorus students were performing her song. Gaynor said she just had to see the show.
“When [Principal] Paul Browning told me she was coming, I thought he was kidding,” Beaudry said. “I know it makes the kids feel really special that she’s here.”
Gaynor said the toughest part of her inspirational talks is talking to young people – especially those who know when adults are lying.
“You have to be real, because those kids see right through you,” Gaynor said.
Senior Manuel Simon asked the legend about her favorite place to perform, and was surprised by the answer.
“She said people she performed for in Lebanon were here favorite, and that they were just like people in Myrtle Beach,” Simon said. “She said we’re welcoming and warm, and that was surprising.”
The pop diva’s visit is something Simon will never forget.
“It was a lifetime experience to see her,” Simon said, “and to perform for her.”
Through decades of touring and several years of encouraging young people’s musical careers, Gaynor’s biggest lesson came from one simple concept: compassion is most important, she said.
“People don’t care how much you know,” Gaynor said. “until they know how much you care.”