Exclusive: Patti LaBelle Plans To Make Music, Not Pies, With Viral Star James Wright

November 23, 2015  |  

The first and last time I talked to Patti LaBelle, about less than two weeks ago, we were discussing the importance of getting the word out about lung cancer and how it affects Black women. The icon lost two sisters to that form of cancer and wanted to help save lives.

But I talked to LaBelle again today about something much more upbeat and sweet. Literally.

Yes, I’m talking about her sweet potato pies, which we all know have blown up all over the country after singer James Wright created a video reviewing the dessert.

So what does LaBelle really think of the wild success of her pies? And what does she really think of Wright’s video and its contribution to that success? I talked about that with her, as well as the secret to her delectable pie, her Thanksgiving plans, and if she sees herself teaming up with Wright again soon. Wanna hear about it? Here it go.

MadameNoire: So Ms. LaBelle, what is the secret ingredient in your pies that makes them so good?

Patti LaBelle: I guess it’s just love. It’s Patti’s love. It’s all in the pies. About a year ago, I went over my new pie recipe with Walmart. So we came up with a Patti pie for Walmart. But years and years ago, I did a pie in my first cookbook [LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing about] that most people are trying now. It’s not quite the same as this one. I can’t tell you what’s in this one other than a whole lot of love and a whole lot of butter [laughs]. But as a diabetic, I want people to know that I have one coming out for us. But the one everyone loves is filled with butter and stuff that I can only have a little piece of in moderation because it’s very sweet. But it’s very good.

MN: As a diabetic, do you have other low sugar options of your desserts coming up?

LaBelle: My next pie will be prepared with agave. Not any more real, real sugar. And sometimes the sweet potatoes are so sweet you don’t need any sweeteners. For the diabetics, it’s still going to be great because I know how to substitute and still put the love in it [laughs]. ‘Cause that’s what I do for myself. I make a pretend Patti LaBelle sweet potato pie with just sweet potatoes. But everyone got a hold of this sweet one right away, and Walmart just started selling them like crazy. Before my new friend, James, put that new video on, the pies were selling great. But he woke up a lot of people and turned them on to my Patti pie. I’m going to meet him today. We’re spending four days together in Philadelphia, and he’s going to come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner.

MN: Patti! That’s awesome!

LaBelle: He’s a good guy. I called him from London about a week ago. That’s when I first met him, over the phone. I sent him some flowers, balloons and a big teddy bear because he’s a big teddy bear. I do believe in giving people back when they give to me. And he gave me a video! A man I never met before. I said, “Thank you, dear God, for another blessing.”

MN: His involvement and the success of the video definitely shows the power of social media and the Black dollar. Every person I knew was on social media like, “Just got a Patti pie!” 

I know! You know what? I feel so good about this. I couldn’t have dreamed this up. I saw myself on OWN on Oprah’s show [Oprah’s Master Class] talking about blessings. Of course, the pie wasn’t talked about when I did the show two or three months ago and the episode finally aired last night. But it speaks to the power of blessings and the power of the Black dollar. People were seeing a video and going out to try something that they might not have tried had they not seen the video.

MN: Are you going to team up with him in some form or fashion soon, whether it be to sell the pies or musically? Cause he can blow!

I’m going to meet him today, and I know we’re going to team up and do a lot of things together. The man can sing his face off, so I know we’ll be doing some music together.

MN: Patti! That’s so awesome. So what other goods can people expect from you via Walmart, maybe not in time for Thanksgiving, but soon?

There are a lot of things that Walmart will be selling of Patti LaBelle’s. My bedding, sheets and comforters. I’m going to do macaroni and cheese with Walmart. A diabetic-friendly sweet potato pie and some other diabetic-friendly items. So I have a few things coming out, thank you, dear God, and I’m going to ride that train! [laughs]

MN: This is a really big deal because Black folks live for sweet potato pie. It’s like everyone is breaking bread, or pie together, over the Internet.

Yeah! It’s beautiful.

MN: So I know you’ll be with family and James, but what are you throwing down for Thanksgiving? 

Oh God, let me see. Four fried turkeys. Turkey fried legs. Turkey fried wings. A Cornish hen. A capon. Three big briskets. Slabs of pork ribs, hot and mild. Of course, sweet potato pies and peach cobblers that I’m making. Kale greens, about 20 bunches. Four heads of cabbage. A green salad. A fruit salad. Rolls. Cranberry sauce. A leg of lamb and a sauteed turkey leg also, in the oven. Oh, and potato salad! Macaroni and cheese with lobster and shrimp and plain macaroni and cheese for those allergic to fish. And I invited Questlove for dinner also. And I also invited the great Lee Daniels, so I’m going to have a bunch of cute people in my house, and they’re going to be full [laughs].

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