Patti Labelle is still going strong at 71. Not only is she singing her heart out as she has throughout her long, illustrious career, but the multi Grammy winner also has a successful business venture with Wal-Mart, making a line of desserts. Labelle’s eponymous sweet potato pie flew off the shelves over the holidays and she’ll soon be coming out with more flavors.
We spoke to the R&B icon, who is based outside Philadelphia, before her trip to play the Arsht Center Friday night.
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Can you tell us about your concert in Miami?
I’m going to do a 75-90 minute show. You know we have a set list but I never follow it. If I feel something in the moment or someone from the audience asks for something like Lady Marmalade or New Attitude, or Over the Rainbow, I’ll turn around to my musical director, and say, ‘Hey, let’s do this one tonight.’ It’s like, planned, but I’m not going to stick to the plan. I’m just that outrageous, spontaneous lady!
Do you have any rituals before a gig?
I don’t do the scales or anything like that. What was do is pray. The crew and the band, we get in our circle, then get out there and hope to touch someone’s soul.
So let’s talk about this sweet potato pie that’s driving the Internet crazy.
My mother and father had a great recipe, that I put in my first cookbook [1999’s LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About], then Wal-Mart wanted me to come up with a special ingredient to make it a little different. This pie is so good you can eat it straight out of the box. Or you can heat it in the oven and put a little ice cream on the side. I’ll be coming out with an apple and cherry pie that are diabetic friendly, because I’m diabetic, you know. So we’re going to cover that.
You sure are busy. Besides touring, recent TV appearances include American Horror Story, Dancing with the Stars and Empire. Along with your music and food business, how do you juggle it all?
My secret is waking up and thanking God that I have another day and that I have a job to do. I just hope I can please the public. I’ve been feeling pretty good lately, maybe it’s in the genes. I’m 71 and still moving, still doing it! I do walk a little. I play gin rummy with my best friend. It’s not an exciting life I have. Pretty quiet, really. Chill. But it’s a blessing. I’m waiting to exhale, honey.