“It’s so hard to leave the stage after a night like this,” Celine Dion gushed after a recent performance in Australia, and it was clear to fans that the diva, 50, was having the time of her life throughout her summer tour Down Under and in Asia. Some even wondered if that undeniable sparkle in Celine’s eye is due to a new man in her life: backup dancer Pepe Muñoz.  

“These rumors really amuse us, and we laugh about them,” Pepe has said, denying his relationship with Celine is romantic. He does admit, however, that the two are close. “I can count on her when I need to talk, and I am ready to listen to her, too,” he shared. “She is exactly what you see: nice, tender, generous, always ready to offer the best of herself.” 

Pepe has been a positive influence on Celine, who lost husband-manager René Angélil in 2016 to cancer. “He’s given her a whole new outlook on life,” an insider exclusively explained to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “She feels he’s helped her grieve and move on after René passed in a way she never would’ve done on her own. She likes to tell her friends that Pepe’s her long-lost soulmate. They stay up late, they dance, they shop — they’re inseparable!” 

Even Celine’s kids, René-Charles, 17, and twins Nelson and Eddy, 7, have noticed that Celine radiates happiness lately. “They love Pepe,” the insider promised, “and they think he’s great for their mother.”

Celine’s taking advice from one of her own hit songs, “Taking Chances,” and allowing Pepe, a fashion illustrator, to spruce up her wardrobe. “He’s awakened something in her,” the insider shared. “She’s always been a diva, but now she’s embracing it more and owning it. She’s taking fashion risks, and she definitely attributes the confidence and joy she feels to her friendship with Pepe.” 

As her life brightens with Pepe by her side, so does her music. “We are exploring new sounds, new producers, and writers and lyricists,” she said of her musical future. “The best,” she promised, “is yet to come!”

For more on your favorite stars, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for exclusive news!