Celine Dion in concert
Larry Marano/Shutterstock

The audience erupted in applause so thunderous at a recent stop on Celine Dion’s current Courage World Tour that she had to cover her ears. “Thank you,” Celine told the crowd, marveling at the ovation. “They left me in the Nevada desert for all that time,” she joked, “but I escaped.”

Celine, who will turn 52 in late March, is flying free and higher than ever before. After a 16-year residency in Las Vegas and the death of her husband and manager, René Angélil, in 2016, she has plunged into a concert tour that will take her to nearly 100 cities across the globe. “I’ve decided to rebuild my second half,” Celine says. “It’s time to try things. It’s time to take risks.”

The process of taking the reins of her life while making certain that her sons, René-Charles, 19, and Eddy and Nelson, both 9, thrived after their father’s loss wasn’t easy. “[René] and I — we were one person, so when he passed away I kind of felt for a moment that there was just one half of me,” she confesses. “It was hard …. It took me to a place where I was finding myself.”

Celine feels more confident about the new possibilities of her life today. “She’s running her empire and raising her kids. She’s feeling strong like she’s a grown woman for the first time in her life,” explains a friend.

As she takes the stage, Celine can’t help but feel grateful for how far she has come. “I think that I’m at the best time of my life right now,” she says. “I really want to enjoy and embrace every moment of it.”