Patti LaBelle is an icon with adoring fans around the world. Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, this high-note hitting diva would have been out on the road for her 2020 concert tour, with city stops from Connecticut all the way to Alabama. Truly, the stage is the place our beloved Ms. Patti loves to be the most. Since quarantine has had everyone spending more time indoors, and looking inward, the singer has been spending time with the ones she loves — like her adorable granddaughter Gia.
It’s no secret that Ms. Patti knows her way around the kitchen. So its no wonder her irresistible Patti Pies started flying off Walmart’s shelves in 2015. But in recent years, Ms. Patti has been taking a healthier approach. This week, she’s partnering with Walmart for a different reason. The icon and big-box retailer have teamed up for an installment of Walmart Wellness Live this Friday at noon ET where she’ll discuss, at length, her journey with diabetes and healthy living.
I had the honor of chatting with the queen herself all about finding joy in quarantine, and how she’s maintaining the will to live her best, and healthiest, life.
How have you been feeling in quarantine, and what is bringing you joy during crazy times such as these?
My God! For the last six months, I’ve been thinking about how spoiled I was knowing that I had a concert tour to look forward to. Since the six months that I’ve been off, I realized that it might be a while before I get to have that microphone in my hand, which bothers me a lot. But it’s not depressing me, because I know this too shall pass. I’ve been having fun with my grandkids coming over on the weekend, swimming, being with my little dog and close family members, and cooking every day. That brings me joy. And I’m a realist. I realize that it might be a while before I can hold that microphone the way I want to in front of people. So I deal with it every day and I am getting over it. I’m not depressed. That’s one thing I can say. Depressed is not in my lane.
You’ve been open about your living with diabetes and how its influenced your healthy eating journey. How has it been managing your diabetes and staying connected with your doctors with the stay-at-home order?
Well, I do see my doctor on my telephone whenever I have to, and that’s a relief because we can see each other. I’m not going to go to an office at this time, I have to be honest, but they’re making it easy for me by talking over the phone. I’m learning new recipes every day and cooking for myself because I am a diabetic. At this moment I would not want to go to a restaurant because I don’t know who’s touching what or who’s putting something in my food that I’m not allowed to have. Even before COVID, I took my pots and pans on the road to every city, hoping to find a farmer’s market, and I would cook in my suite. So, I’ve been staying safe, eating properly, and just living well because I know how to.
So what types of things will your doctor check on with you virtually?
They’ll see how my blood pressure has been, and of course I can show all that stuff over the phone. Everything that we talked about in the office, we talk about on the phone and there is nothing left out. And if there was something serious that I had to go to the office for, I will go. But so far, so good. [I always say] make sure you do talk to your doctors. Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never saw a doctor for anything. And when I passed out on stage that night and went to the hospital, the doctor said “You’re a type 2 diabetic.” I said, “Oh, really?” I would never find that out because I would stay at home. I knew it existed in the family. But I said, “not me.” I tell all of my friends, please check yourself before you wreck yourself – go to a doctor.
What types of food do you like to eat and cook that keep you on a healthy track?
I’m incorporating better foods for my family while I’m here at home. Instead of fried chicken, I’ll saute it or bake it. Habanero pepper and jalapeno pepper, and fresh garlic saved me because they heighten all of my meals that I would normally fry. Once that’s in my food, I’m feeling as though I’m not leaving fried foods behind in my mind. I don’t need them. I have as much fish and salads as possible, and I’m trying to do less chicken. Some nights I’ll have crackers with no salt on them just something to chew and to fill my stomach, because before I would do the ice cream, and a Milky Way, and just things that I knew I shouldn’t have had. Every now and then, we get weak as diabetics. So we have to like say, “okay, I won’t take the whole chocolate bar, just a bite.”
What advice can you give people who are trying to manage diabetes or other chronic, underlying conditions from home during quarantine?
This is the hardest time for most people. Some people are living in a home with eight people and only three rooms. So you’re going to drive yourself to think that the next best thing would be alcohol or some chocolate ice cream, or something to take the depression away. Watching TV, seeing all the killings, the president and watching people do crazy things, [you may say] “Well I’m going to fix up that little thing by having a snack that I shouldn’t have.” It helps the mind, but it doesn’t help the body.
For the last six months, it’s been almost impossible to stay healthy, unless your mind is on the bigger prize and you’re saying, “I can do this. Even in COVID, I can cook the right things and I can feed my kids the right things.” You have to be mindful of whatever you buy from the grocery stores and whatever you put in on your table. So you have to try to make a healthy choice in these bad times. It’s so hard, but I believe we can do the best we can.