Is there a singer more real than Patti LaBelle? The 73-year-old legend of song (and shade) is a firehose of strong-minded opinions, and in an age that has some tight-lipped divettes,as LaBelle calls them, refraining from saying “too” much, the ever-honest LaBelle is, refreshingly, that rare freewheeler who revels in being blunt AF.

In 2014, she told me she no longer considers herself a diva because all these little heifers who cant sing are called divas.The word, she observed, is not cute anymore.Now, after our recent warm phone reunion while doing promo for her new jazz album, Bel Hommage, she who has given the gays so much, from music and pies to a bevy of side-eye-serving GIFs, still has more to give even her own precious pie-making time.

I really like talking to you,she tells me when I start to wrap the interview. My allotted time has long passed, but shes not done. And by the end of our 25-minute interview weve covered generous ground: why shes still standingthanks to the LGBT community, President Trumpetteand his Twitter-proposed ban on transgender people in the military, her music-biz foes (and how Aretha Franklin is not one of them) and how you may see me as a diva and thats a compliment to those who think its a compliment.

Q: Last time we had a gay press chat it was shortly before you had me twerkinon your stage here in Detroit. I still cant believe you let me do that. Whats the craziest thing a gay fan has done on your stage?

A: Gosh, I dont really know! Maybe you! I know Ive had a lot of gay men on my stage during Lady Marmalade and they go way out because once theyre up there they say, Im here with Ms. Pattis microphone and Im gonna wear it out.Ive had so many do so many things that I cant tell you specifically one.

Q : I dont know if he was gay, but in Vancouver last year, a fan got frisky on your stage and…

A: Showed me his ass?

Q: Is that what he did?

A: Yeah! He mooned me! Because he came up and I was looking at him through the whole show and I said, Oh, hes an enthusiastic fan,right? I try to look at the people that Im gonna bring up, so I brought him up thinkinhe was cool. He did his little shake and then turned around and pulled his pants down. I had on high pumps. I kicked that ass.

Q: You even called him a bitch.

A: I did! I did use a curse word. And I felt so bad. He took me to that limit. I said, How could he take me there?And they had it on TMZ or whatever. I said, Its true.Gotta protect myself. (Laughs)

Q: I was happy to see that you did NYC Pride this summer. Is there something special about performing for an all-gay audience?

A: That night it poured, so when Deborah Cox was on she did three songs and then had to be rushed off the stage. It couldve been shut down cause it was so bad. Everybody got drenched. So instead of my going on at 9, I went on at about 10:15… and they were still there!

My whole thing is, when I knew I was doing gay Pride, I said, Im gonna wear something beautifully outrageous, and Im gonna have that old Patti LaBelle hair that I used to do with the fans and all that jazz. I said, Im gonna wear that hair! And from the time I went on until the end, they never stopped yelling for more. I mean, when we were pulling out in our car, they were still, More, more, more!They were so enthusiastic. But what I did: I wore that old hair, and a lot of people who didnt know me from the 80s – we got some bad press for it – and I said, You know what, I did that for my queens. They understand it.It was for you guys. But I enjoyed doing it. And then the wind knocked that sucker down. I said, OK, Im gonna have to kick it up.(Laughs)

Q: Ha! Who would give Patti LaBelle crap for her hair?

A: People who didnt really understand where I was in the 80s. You know, some of the younger kids – they dont have a clue who Patti LaBelle or Labelle was.

Q: So what do they know you for?

A: I have no clue.

Q: Im thinking, But that is part of your legacy.

A: Yeah, theyre Patti latecomers.

Q: Speaking of Deborah Cox, a lot of people dont know that Montell Jordan wrote Nobodys Supposed to Be Here,but you didnt love it and then it went to Deborah…

A: Deborah always says Im her reason for being in show business because I let the song go and she got it. Thats her start. After that, I started performing that song at my show and told the audience, This is the song that got away.But Im happy it did because I love her.

Q: Have you given up a lot of songs that became hits?

A: Right?! Well, this is the first time for me. But Ill know the next time to hold onto something that sounds halfway decent.

Q: I read Hello, Dolly! came your way years ago, before it hit Broadway, but that you passed on it. When the role ultimately went to Bette Midler, were you kicking yourself for not jumping at the chance?

A: Nope, I didnt.Cause you know what: Thats a big piece of work and I think Bette Midler can do it much better than Patti LaBelle. I thought about it after she did it. Might I do it in the future? You never know.

Q: Do you pay attention to the memes and GIFs of you throwing shade that people love to share on the internet?

A: Yeah, I see them. And you know what, Im honored! (Laughs) And whenever I see something thats not totally positive about me, I say, God, at least they thought about me.Its really the way to look at these situations. But at the end of the day I know who I really amand thats a cool chick! (Laughs)

Q: Has your son given up on keeping what you say in check?

A: Well, he tries. Lately, he hasnt had to because Ive not been saying anything out of order. But I know hes always waiting and when I do hell take me to the side: Mom, could you not say that ever again?I say, OK.Something happened about two weeks ago and Im trying to remember what it was. This time it was aboutGod, what did I do? Im always doinsomething and hes always reprimanding me for it.

Q: Do you ever regret things that you say?

A: My God, about 50 million things. Im full of regrets. But you know what, Im honest. So it will come out and Ill say, God, I didnt mean to say that.But its too late. And Im not gonna whoop myself up for it.  I did it and Ill do it again. I know Ill do it! I do have my little cop son watching me, so I try to be nice.

Q: Three years ago you told me you dont call yourself a diva because all these little heifers who cant sing are called divas.But then, after that interview, you did VH1s Divas Holiday: Unsilent Night last year and then Daytime Divas this year. Now, Ms. Patti, I feel like youre sending me mixed signals here.

A: (Laughs) No – no, mixed signals! If I do Daytime Divas, which I did, and if I did Divas the concert, of course, I’m gonna be in it, but Im not saying, Im a diva. People look to me and may see me as a diva and thats a compliment to those who think its a compliment. Like I said, Lena Horne and Dinah Washington and all those beautiful dolls back in the day, they were divas. These little divettes walking around – I dont wanna put myself in the same sentence with some of these little kids. So, Im not a diva; just a singinfool.

Q: People are under the impression theres rivalry between you and Aretha Franklin, but you recently quashed that rumor when you said, of anyone, youd most want to duet with her. Why do people think you had a beef? And whats the deal with women constantly being pitted against each other?

A: Im not gonna be pitted against any lady in this industry. I do my job, I sing hard and I sing well, and I love what I do. If another lady finds that as being too much for them, or whoever might feel Im being too much, thats their problem. But Ive never had beef.

Now, there are a lot of ladies in this industry who dont care for Patti LaBelle and some gentleman, also but I look at them and I smile. Because what can I do? I cant change your mind, boo, because I dont wanna change your mind. You go on thinkinabout me the way you think. No – but I havent had beef with anyone. Ive had a lot of dislikes. But I pay no mind. I keep moving and I dont stop to talk about the ones who talk about me.

Q: Lets talk about food. You know how people say gays dont eat carbs?

A : Gays dont eat carbs who said that?! Every gay guy I know, they eat carbs. (Laughs)

Q: And they eat your pies?

A: They eat my pies, honey! And my peach cobbler. You have to go to Walmart, or Ill have to come and make you one personally. One more thing about food: I start taping my cooking show soon and Laverne Cox is one of my cooking buddies.

Q: Regarding Bel Hommage: If theres ever an album that pays homage to you the way you pay homage to artists such as Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra on this album, who would get your blessing to cover your songs?

A: Oh, I would give Fantasia blessings. And Ledisi. The little singing girls. The ones who can really, really sing.

Q: What does it mean to you to be able to really, really sing?

A: Someone who can sing without someone in the studio tweaking what they just sang because it was so flat or whatever. Sing straight out in the studio, record without all those little gimmicks. Some of them are lucky because they end up selling a lot of music, but a singer is a person who goes out there and throws down. Just get on a microphone and sing. Phyllis Hyman was that girl.

Q: Would you still regard a singeras someone who can throw down in the studio but lip-syncs live?

A: Oh, a lot of them lip-sync. But they lip-sync and they do it so well you cant tell that theyre doing it. But I can always tell. I can always tell. Ive never done that.

Q: What gives them away?

A: Their mouths sometimes miss the movement! (Laughs) Your mouth should be making a certain movement when you sing a certain note, and they miss sometimes. But thats what they do for a living. I dont do that.

Q: So weve got Fantasia – who else is on this covers album?

A: Ledisi, Andra Day, Emeli Sandé and Leela James – my God, that girl can sing. I love these ladies.

Q: Why have you never duetted in the studio with your goddaughter, Mariah Carey?

A : I dont know. We always talk about it when we see each other.

Q: Maybe you two can hook up for a song on your dance album, which I believe is in the works. Hopefully we dont have to wait as long as we waited for this jazz album.

A: Right?! Not 10 years, thats for sure. I have not started working on it. Im working on a Christmas album at the moment and old R&B favorites of mine from back in the day. And thatthe uptempo music, I call it (laughs)… that will be done as soon as I do something with these other two projects, but its definitely in the mix.

Q: Will it be for the gay clubs?

A: Oh yeah, for the gay clubs. You know what, I was so angry with myself when I did NYC Pride. There was a song that I recorded many, many years ago called Land of the Living.I meant to do that that particular night and we didnt have time to rehearse it, but Im gonna put stuff like that back in my show.

Q: Why did you want to perform that song at NYC Pride?

A: Because there are so many gay men who were there who might be going through something with life. Youre in the land of the living, so act like youre living. I just know what gay men go through and I wanted to put that song in the air, but I will.

Q: There couldnt be a more perfect time. There is so much happening in the world. Maybe you heard, but Donald Trump said trans people are no longer able to serve in the military.

A: I know! My friend told me. Theyre banned from service, according to the Trumpette. Aint that a witch.

Q: Do you think about your legacy, Patti?

A: I just want to be honest and truthful, and I want people knowing that when I did whatever I did, it was all the way. Never half percent, always 100 percent. One-hundred percent in everything: my cooking, my dressing, everything. If I cant go all the way, I wont go halfway. I have to go all the way. And just how honest I am they can remember that. The more honest I am, the better I get by, the more things come to my plate. Everybody knows that if you give Patti something, its gonna be quality. Thats just how I work.

Q: Any last words for your gay fans?

A: I just want all of my gay fans to know that I will always be here for them the way I am: honest, to the point, and loving my gay fans even more and more each day. I mean, when I think about it, the gay fans are some of the reason – one big reason – Im still standing, cause they loved me when other people tried not to. Everybody always says, What makes gay men like you?” “I have no clue,I say. I still dont. But I know that love has lifted me up for many, many years. As long as I can stand on stage and my gay men and lesbian women see Patti LaBelle as someone whos always been honest on stage – you know, Ill stop and have to go to the bathroom and Ill let them know Ill be right back. A lot of cutie girls stand up there and they pretend for the hour or however how long and thats just gross. It turns me off.

Q: They pretend like they wanna be there?

A: Yes! And everything you see of them is gonna be mechanical. Gladys Knight – shes a raw girl. And whenever you see Gladys, youre gonna see a different Gladys. If you just saw her show five nights in a row, she will not do everything the same.

Q: You just want something real.

A: It has to stay that way.

Chris Azzopardi is editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service, and has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. Reach him via his website at and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).