Perhaps it’s fitting that the singer behind “Lady Marmalade” is a life-long cook at heart.
Grammy Hall of Famer Patti LaBelle made her mark as the "Godmother of Soul" through the decades, but her latest act has centered on scaling her popular food brand, Patti’s Good Life.
Launched 15 years ago in Philadelphia, LaBelle started small – offering a line of hot sauces and barbecue sauces she created in her kitchen.
In the years since, she has expanded to include comfort foods based off her recipes, like peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, chicken and biscuits, and mac n’ cheese.
The dishes have proven so successful that she secured deals with major grocers – Target and Walmart – where last year gross sales for the company hit nearly $200 million. “My cooking is going places where my singing career has not gone,” she recently told Forbes and Know Your Value.
LaBelle was honored on Forbes and Know Your Value’s third annual “50 Over 50” U.S. list, which came out on Aug. 1. The list spotlights dynamic women over the age of 50 who have achieved significant success later in life, often by overcoming formidable odds or barriers.
Cooking since the age of 10, LaBelle always considered food her first passion. As her music career progressed, she jumped at opportunities to cook for fellow icons like Elton John, Prince and the Rolling Stones. She even labeled her tinfoil trays with her name to make sure everyone knew they were eating LaBelle’s signature dishes.
“So many different people in the industry just loved my cooking … because I cook with my heart,” she said. “I don’t want anybody else taking credit for it.”
To that end, LaBelle and her son Zuri own 100 percent of the company, financing the brand with the proceeds from her music career. They’ve partnered with factories to bake her meticulously-tested dishes before distributing them to the big-box retailers. While Patti’s Good Life has taken off over the last few years, this venture isn’t LaBelle’s first foray outside of entertainment.
She previously worked with the Home Shopping Network to sell clothing under her name and has written several best-selling cookbooks.
Now, LaBelle is expanding Patti’s Good Life to include a new breakfast line – inspired by her grandchildren – and a forthcoming product line of wines, desserts and other frozen foods at an accessible price point.
“When I do put this line out, it's going to be affordable because some of my friends didn't have much,” LaBelle said. “That's important to me so I can help someone have a decent meal, times are hard.”
LaBelle credits her age, experience and family support for why she’s made such a successful pivot from entertainment into the food business.
“[Being over 50] is an advantage because I've seen it all, I've done it all, I can let younger girls like Beyonce and Mariah Carey – and all these little girls who ask me questions about where I've been – I can give them all the info because I've been there, done that and thrown away that T-shirt,” she said. “I can give them quality answers.”
And to the next generation of women rushing to find success before the age of 30, LaBelle gave a stern warning.
“That could kill you ... You’ll hurt yourself rushing for your ambition to happen, and you're going to do everything – maybe the wrong things – to make it happen that soon," she said. "I'm doing better at 79 than I did at 30, so I would say don't rush it [because] if it's to be it will be.”