Survivor. Entertainer. Entrepreneur. Humanitarian. Legend. These are some of the words some have used to describe Patti LaBelle, and as powerful and poignant as they are, they still seem to fall short of capturing the essence of this soulful songbird who has stolen our hearts and made us believe we could soar.
With her flair for fantastic fashion, charismatic performance style and incomparable singing voice, Patti LaBelle has earned the coveted title of diva, but it is a title that the seasoned 73-year-old accepts with hesitation. I experienced LaBelle, affectionately known by her fans and followers as Ms. Patti, during a recent sold-out show at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in Cleveland, Ohio and was blown away by not only her performance, but the bigness of her heart and depth of her love for people in general, and women in particular.
Ms. Patti doesn’t just sing about love, she openly expresses it and gives it to her fans and fellow women as well, and if I may take a page from the singing sensation’s songbook, I say to Ms. Patti, “This is why we love you!” During her 90-minute performance at the Hard Rock Rocksino, LaBelle took a moment to acknowledge a young woman who attended the show with her mother, who was celebrating her birthday. As the mother covered her face in giddy embarrassment and shunned the spotlight momentarily placed upon when her daughter went to the front of the stage and asked LaBelle to wish her mom happy birthday, Ms. Patti addressed her young and adoring fan with class, grace, elegance and love. “We are all just two steps away from speaking to each other and loving each other, and I don’t mind saying ‘Hey,’ to you girl,” sermonized Ms. Patti in the midst of a captivating performance that included love- and sisterhood-themed songs such as “You Are My Friend,” “When You Talk About Love, “Lady Marmalade,” and a cover of the Al Green classic “Love & Happiness.”
I spoke with Ms. Patti prior to her Hard Rock Rocksino performance and she shared that in addition to being onstage and showing love to her fans, she adores being on the screen as an actor. Regarding her upcoming role as the character Gloria, a protective mother in VH1’s new scripted series Daytime Divas, starring fellow diva and friend Vanessa Williams, LaBelle shared, “I’m always interested in acting – if the right part comes around of course I’m going to say yes. This one is with Vanessa, who is one of my dear friends, and I loved what I saw of the show.”
Speaking of television, the inspirational LaBelle, who uses her platform as an entertainer to support various humanitarian causes such as Big Sisters, the United Negro College Fund, the American Diabetes Foundation as well as advocacy campaigns in support of adoption and foster care, says that one of the best things she’s seen on television in a long, long time was the recent Women’s March on Washington and its ancillary demonstrations across the country. “I think it was the most beautiful march that could’ve happened. It let everybody know that what we’re about to deal with, it’s not necessary, and it’s relevant because that’s what we’re going to be dealing with but to put a silence to [Trump’s] inauguration, it made everyone really see what is the problem. If I could’ve marched that day I would’ve, I think it was beautiful. The women and the men showed where we stand.”
People coming together for a good cause isn’t the only thing Ms. Patti is passionate about these days. LaBelle will also be sharing her love for jazz music with a new album slated for release in May, about which she shared, “I don’t have a title yet… it’s jazz… a few songs by Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra and a few older people, some who are here and some who are not here.”
Perhaps one of the most stirring and moving moments of LaBelle’s Hard Rock Rocksino performance came at the very end of the night, when LaBelle paid tribute to musical greats gone too soon Prince, Whitney Houston, George Michael, David Bowie, Robin Williams, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Nina Simone and more with a heartfelt rendition of “You Are My Friend.” The emotional tribute served as a powerful reminder that life is fleeting, and we must love ourselves and love each other fiercely and frequently. When asked the secret to loving life past what society considers to be one’s prime and peak, LaBelle shared, “I always say to the women 50 and over not to hide your age. Be who you are, look in the mirror and say, ‘this is a beautiful 73-year-old woman,” which I do every day, and I’m a giving person, a good mother, a good wife when I was a wife, and just don’t be afraid to show who you are, because we have power and so much power.”
Ms. Patti is the sister, mother, girlfriend we all want and wish we had in our lives, and we at Inspirer honor and salute her for always keeping it real, keeping it classy, and always cooking up something new for us to love and learn from. We love you, Ms. Patti!