Why Donna Summer kept cancer a secret: ‘God was going to heal her’
Donna Summer’s daughter is opening up about the cancer battle that took her mom’s life.
On a recent episode of the “Allison Interviews” podcast, Brooklyn Sudano recalled details of her mother’s battle with lung cancer, which took the singer’s life in 2012.
“My mother was extremely strong as a person. I think her decision not to share [her diagnosis] with the world was that she was a woman of faith, and she really believed that God was going to heal her,” the “My Wife and Kids” star, 42, told host Allison Kugel.
Summer, who Sudano described as “one of the strongest people” she knew, maintained positivity and surrounded herself with people who shared the same energy.
“When you’re in the public eye, you end up carrying a lot of people’s emotions for them,” Sudano continued of her “trooper” mom. “She didn’t think she could carry other people’s fear about her illness, or their expectations of what it would look like.”
The “Love to Love You Baby” hitmaker never went to the hospital, much to her doctor’s surprise, and Sudano said the late star was “working on” receiving love “without having to give” during the last year of her life.
“She just had a strength and a will that was beyond anybody I’ve ever experienced before, and she passed at home in Naples, Florida.”
The Grammy-winning Queen of Disco, who died at 63, is the subject of an HBO documentary that premiered this week.
“Love to Love You, Donna Summer,” which debuted on May 20, opens the lid on the struggles the songstress faced during her successful career.
She experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her pastor as a child and later was physically abused by her partner Peter Mühldorfer, who said he “never could forgive” himself after hitting her.
Her mental health deteriorated, and she sincerely contemplated suicide — but her foot got caught on the hotel curtain the moment a housekeeper entered the room. She later admitted that if another “10 seconds” had passed, she would have been a goner.
“Love to Love You Baby” — one of the most scandalous songs of its era — clinched Summer’s legendary status, but despite her public identity as a sex symbol, the disco legend was a born-again Christian.
“When I first discovered that song, there was that moment of me going to my younger sister Amanda and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, do I have a crazy song for you!’” Sudano told Kugel.
But some of Summer’s remarks got her in hot water over the years — namely, the comment: “God didn’t make Adam and Steve. He made Adam and Eve.”
“Her intent was not meant to be hurtful, but obviously many people were hurt by it,” Sudano said. “We wanted to acknowledge that, but the way that it snowballed and all the things that people said about her and how she felt about the LGBTQ+ community was the complete antithesis of who she was.”
In fact, the actress said that community was “a big part of her fanbase” and their lives, saying Summers was “caught in a changing time about what you could say and what you couldn’t.”
Still, Summer’s success was “groundbreaking,” Sudano said.
“I think in so many ways it was very empowering to so many people to see and witness a woman, particularly a Black woman, be on stage and just own her own power,” she said. “It was groundbreaking for the time.”