Patti LaBelle knows a thing or two about smashing glass ceilings. After all, she was the frontwoman of two groups, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and later, LaBelle. The latter of which received mainstream plaudits for their smash hit, “Lady Marmalade.” She earned another No. 1 single in 1986 for her duet with Michael McDonald, “On My Own.” In more recent years, Labelle broke personal streaming records alongside her bestie Gladys Knight during their Verzuz battle in 2020.
Today, LaBelle, a young 79, is thriving, and she’s happy to be able to still share her gift with the world. “I’m still encouraging younger women to know that they can stand strong for a long time. Because I get so many babies like Ledisi, Beyoncé and Kelly [Rowland], they all come to me for information. So I feel as though I’ve been a vocal role for them for many years, and that makes me proud,” she says.
Tonight marks the culmination of her successful career as she’ll be honored alongside country artist Tayna Tucker at Country Music Television’s Smashing Glass: A Celebration of the Groundbreaking Women of Music. “To smash glass, it means to be on top, we women, we do it. It was amazing to be with other women who have smashed glass. For many years, we have not been recognized, so I was happy to be a part of it, because we bust the glass, and we tear it down,” LaBelle says.
The CMT musical salute includes performances from Ledisi, who will sing LaBelle’s 1984 song “New Attitude,” and The War & Treaty, who will execute a rendition of LaBelle’s 1986 duet with McDonald, “On My Own.”
In addition to the tribute to LaBelle, CMT will also honor some of the iconic women musicians we’ve lost in recent years. Mickey Guyton will sing “The Best,” honoring the late Tina Turner; with Guyton herself shattering glass by becoming the first Black woman country singer at the Grammys. Amber Riley will celebrate the life of Aretha Franklin with a performance of Franklin’s 1967 smash hit, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
Reflecting on where she is today, LaBelle says wouldn’t be where she is today without Turner and Franklin, both of whom she considers good friends, and feels blessed to be honored apace with them. “Those are the ladies that I’ve been with. Tina Turner died on my birthday, and it was just so I was so happy for the first four or five hours of my birthday, and when I heard about her, it just put a damper on my day, she was such a wonderful woman. Aretha Franklin and I, we talked about a year before she left about recording together, and just knowing that they believed in me, and they love me. To still be here standing, I’m standing for them also.”
However, LaBelle’s impact stretches much further than just her extensive catalog. She’s also broken the mold with her Good Life brand, which is most notable for her delicious Patti Pies, and she has her hands in many pots, literally. The widely proclaimed Queen of Rock and Soul has also made some silver screen cameos, including A Different World, American Horror Story, Empire, and Star. She starred in her own television series Out All Night, the cooking show Patti LaBelle’s Place, hit competition series such as Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer, plus starred in Broadway productions of Your Arms are Too Short to Box with God, Fela!, and After Midnight. And when she’s not doing that, she is likely working on her next book. Having already written six books, her repertoire includes the 20th-anniversary edition of her New York Times bestselling cookbook, LaBelle Cuisine.
Since first announcing the Good Life brand in 2008, it’s expanded exponentially.“It’s just a blessing to know, as a child, I always wanted to cook and I watched my mother and father cook, and I got their recipes. Now people are buying their recipes. I feel so blessed that people are trusting Patti LaBelle’s food–and my food is no better than your auntie or your grandmother’s. It’s just that mine are on the shelves,” LaBelle said with a laugh.
Her cooking brand has even caught the attention of Cardi B, which led to a collaboration with the rapper. Labelle and her Good Life desserts paired with Cardi B’s Whipshots brand. And while you may assume the two are worlds apart, Labelle says they’re a lot alike. “We’re very much alike, we’re both kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”
LaBelle’s journey of smashing glass has truly only just begun. In 2017, LaBelle launched her own record label, GPE Records, and she’s working on recording her first R&B album in nearly 20 years, following When A Woman Loves (2000) and Timeless Journey in (2004). There will be more to come from Good Life, including breakfast, sweet potatoes, and even wine going into next year. “Things are continuing to grow, and at 79, I’m doing much better than I did at 40,” LaBelle concluded.
Watch CMT ‘Smashing Glass,’ Wednesday November 15 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on Country Music Television.