- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

NEW YORK — With her down-home, friendly demeanor, Patti LaBelle has a way of putting people at ease. In fact, the soulful diva makes people feel so comfortable that strangers have sought her advice in times of trouble, hoping she can put them on the right path.

"[They] come up to me in airports or wherever, and they'll say, 'Patti, I'm going through this, could you tell me what to do?'" Miss LaBelle says in a recent telephone interview. "And I say, 'Honey, you might need to tell me what to do 'cause I'm going through something, too.'"

Such experiences led Miss LaBelle to write "Patti's Pearls" (Warner Books) with Laura Randolph Lancaster. It offers nuggets of wisdom and lessons Miss LaBelle has learned in her 57 years and four-decades-plus career. Her hits include "Lady Marmalade" with her old group, LaBelle, and such solo hits as "On My Own," "If Only You Knew" and "New Attitude."

"Patti's Pearls" is her third book. She also wrote her memoirs, "Don't Block the Blessings," and a cookbook, "LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About."

Miss LaBelle fussed recently about the lack of cooking facilities in her room at a hotel where she was staying.

She doesn't do as much cooking now that she's living alone, however; she's separated from L. Armstead Edwards, her husband of more than 30 years, and her only child, son Zuri, is grown and out of the house.

These days, Miss LaBelle's main priority is herself. She takes insulin for her diabetes but says exercise would help.

"I'm not going to lie and say, 'Yeah, I do all this wonderful exercise,' but they're now trying to get me to get in the pool so that it will also help with my diabetes. I don't walk; I don't do any kind of exercises; I am a very bad girl. I can't drive; I can't swim," she says. "But I'm going to really start taking care of myself."

Q: Will you ever marry again?

A: Yes, for sure. As soon as he comes along and I know he's right, like, I'm not looking, but I'll know it when it happens.

Q: Have you been dating?

A: Not yet. I've been flirting. I just love flirting. You get to see how many people like you, how many young men like you. I'm feeling real cute. I'm going to date soon.

Q: Mya, Pink, Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera had a No. 1 hit with their remake of "Lady Marmalade." Would you ever perform it with them?

A: I would love to, because I love the way they did it. I love the video. When I did it 28 years ago, we didn't have videos, so I love watching them do it. I guess I would just have to put on a little baby G-string or whatever.

Q: Are you close to any of today's young performers?

A: Yeah, all of them. Mariah [Carey], Mary J. [Blige], Jill Scott, India(.Arie). It's like all of these girls are girls that I've talked to and given words of encouragement. They see me as this ageless mother.

Q: Do you still kick off your shoes in your concerts?

A: You know it, and roll on that floor, honey, and hardly get up once I get down, but somebody always helps me up. We [performers] just feel it and let it go and it's just like a freedom up there. When I get up there, I just let go. Offstage I'm very shy, but onstage I'm not shy at all.

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