Patti LaBelle’s voice first blessed the airwaves over 60 years ago, and she remains a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage. With an estimated current net worth of between $60 million and $70 million, LaBelle stands as a model of success for entertainers from her era.
Recently, LaBelle was booked by BET to do a tribute to the late Tina Turner at the 2023 BET Awards. Her less-than-flattering rendition of Turner’s hit song “The Best” on June 25 at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater was not her finest moment.
Part of the reason many said LaBelle’s performance was not up to her standard was because she didn’t know the words of the song and struggled to see the teleprompter. In the middle of the performance, she told the audience of industry elite, “Oh … Lawd … Whatever, I can’t see the words; I don’t know. I’m trying, y’all.”
A video shared online revealed that the teleprompter was blocked by a section of the audience.
Despite this minor hiccup, LaBelle has otherwise had a stellar career. However, as a legacy artist whose work pioneered the recording space for Black artists after her, she did not make the vast majority of her wealth directly from making music.
This bold personality used music to set her up for an apparently thriving career outside of the studio, making her one of the most successful independent entrepreneurs in the food industry.
The Making Of LaBelle
LaBelle started her career in 1960 as a singer in West Philadelphia at John Bartram High School at the age of 16. Back then, her name was still Patricia Louise Holte and she was a member of a group called the Ordettes. The young singer was serious about the craft, and while the Ordettes would undergo several member changes, she stayed solid. In two years they signed their first record deal, changing their names to The Blue Belles.
When the young girls were signed to a manager he changed Patti’s name to LaBelle because it means “the beautiful” in French. Little did he know that name would one day emerge as one of the most recognizable names in show business.
Soon the girls were performing on TV shows like “American Bandstand.” They scored their first Billboard charting song in 1963.
The group would morph over the years from the Blue Belles to Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles to Labelle. In fact, one of the members, Cindy Birdsong, would leave the group to join The Supremes in 1970.
However, those remaining in the group with LaBelle — Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash — contributed to one of the biggest songs of the ’70s, “Lady Marmalade,” and broke boundaries for Black women by embracing a glam rocker-futuristic look. The Billboard No. 1 hit was the best-selling song of the group’s career. Still, three years after that song’s success LaBelle launched her solo career with Epic Records.
Between her career with the group and as a solo singer, she made over 30 albums to date. However, she is not credited as a songwriter on most of the works. She is listed as a co-writer on one of her biggest hits, “You Are My Friend.”
Out of all of those classic albums, to date, she only has one platinum album and five gold ones.
Without astronomical record sales and very few writing credits, LaBelle is an A+ performer, commanding top dollar when she tours. Currently, she commands between $75,000 to $150,000 for spot dates, according to Celebrity Talent Booking Agent Mark Green. Larger multi-city tours she brings in millions, the agent says.
Hollywood Calls The Diva
In 1992, LaBelle expanded her celebrity into acting. Along with guest starring on a few episodes of “A Different World,” she starred in her own sitcom, “Out All Night” on NBC. The show, which only lasted one season, helped launch the careers of actors Morris Chestnut, Vivica Fox, and Duane Martin.
This opened a whole new world of entertainment and a different source of income. She has appeared on numerous television shows as herself, but also as one-off characters in popular series like “All of Us,” “Greenleaf,” “American Horror Story,” “Daytime Divas,” and “Star.” Unsurprisingly, the Queen of Philadelphia has been a featured character in movies like “Mama I Want to Sing,” “Idlewild,” and “Cover.”
Patti’s Food Dynasty
While the class action has kept much of her finances extremely private, without a doubt the lion’s share of her portfolio comes from her cooking.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, many stars attested to Patti’s cooking prowess as they toured in the early days for artists like the Rolling Stones and Elton John.
From the restaurant she once had in Center City Philadelphia to her 2018 cooking show “Patti LaBelle’s Place” on the Cooking Channel to her gatherings at her private home, people have always wanted her to feed them.
That’s why in 1999 she published her first cookbook. Then, in 2015, she shut down the world with her Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pies, sold for roughly $3.50 at Walmart but on eBay going up to over $60.
So successful the desserts continue to be, Food and Wine says that a Patti Pie is sold every two seconds of the day in Walmart.
“On average, Walmart sells 36,000 Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pies every single day,” according to the brand. “That’s 1,500 pies every hour and 25 pies per minute, for five straight years!”
The 79-year-old has since expanded her dessert offerings, selling Southern buttermilk pie, peach cobbler, blueberry cobbler, bread pudding, lemon meringue, and banana pudding.
Now the songbird-turned-boardroom-beast has a full food line through Walmart called Patti’s Good Life. In addition to sweets, she sells pre-packaged Mac and Cheese, buttermilk pancakes, syrup, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and more.
She, along with her business partner and son Zuri Edwards, also believe in spreading her blessings, recently partnering with Rob “Don Pooh” Cummins, the co-owner of the Brooklyn Chop House, to launch a line of frozen Chinese food with a soul food twist.
The Face Card Never Declines
In addition to her food ventures and investments, she makes money through endorsements and advertising work.
LaBelle has secured lucrative deals with makeup brands like CoverGirl Cosmetics, owns a couple of restaurant franchises called “Fat LaBelle Burger,” is a co-owner in the Philadelphia Angels Football Team, has a Vodka brand called Pure WonderlaBelle, perfume, apparel, merch, and has invested in stocks.
She also plays around in real estate, even co-owning The Bel Hommage Hotel in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Beloved and an example of constant evolution, LaBelle continues to shine bright no matter what literal or figurative stage she is on.