Patti LaBelle, 77, on self-care: 'I'm so not a diva; I'm a basic woman'

Patti LaBelle opens up about losing her sisters, staying active and not being high maintenance(Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Patti LaBelle opens up about losing her sisters, staying active and not being high-maintenance (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

If there was someone who needs no introduction, it would certainly be the legendary Patti LaBelle. The songstress continues to dazzle fans with her phenomenal voice and has conquered other arenas like television, film and food. Now she is taking on the importance of making your health a priority.

Partnering with the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) and CancerCare, LaBelle wants to spread the word about cancer screenings, especially for people over 40, as early detection can decrease the mortality rate of many cancers. According to a recent study, breast cancer screenings were down 85 percent during the pandemic, with many people afraid to go into their doctor's offices out of fear of COVID.

"There are many ways that you can check yourself before you wreck yourself," LaBelle tells Yahoo Life. "I'm 77 and I would have died, like, six years ago just because I thought it was time that I was going to give up my life and God put it in me to keep on pushing because we have so much in us that we don't even know we had. I'm starting a new life at 77."

Urging fans to visit for resources and support, LaBelle shared her personal connection to the cause — and why she's prioritizing her overall well-being but isn't a "diva" about self-care.

What inspired you to get involved with this campaign?

Losing three sisters to cancer before they turned 50 was my reason for getting involved. I thought I was going to die before I turned 50, [but] once I made 50, I am just thanking God every day that I didn't contract cancer. The reason they didn't last very long is because they didn't get screened and found out too late, and they died of colon cancer [and] lung cancer. A great friend of mine died of breast cancer before she turned 50. Sometimes people do commercials and ads, and they're not really having much reason but to collect the check. Mine is from my heart because I've lived it.

For me to pass 50 — I'm 77 and still moving, God has been good. And I just want people to know, because of the pandemic, a lot of people put off their screenings for cancer because they were afraid to go into [medical] buildings. But now it's time to go and get screened.

Aside from cancer screenings, what other steps have you taken to minimize your risk?

Well, I'm trying to exercise, so I have a treadmill. It’s been fun for me because [with] not working in 17 months, you have to keep yourself active as possible. I can't swim, but I get in the pool and kick my legs, and walk [my] little dog. I'll walk around the house. Instead of getting on an elevator, I’ll try to take the steps. I’m trying to do things to help me turn 78.

Making smarter choices in what you eat and all the things that you do. I don't fry, I sauté and steam and broil and bake. So there's so many ways that you can change your lifestyle that don't cost you nothing.

What are your go-to techniques for fighting stress and anxiety? Do you turn to therapy, meditation, journaling or any other practices?

I go to myself. I go to God. I stand in the mirror and pray every day. I do a little exercise. I do my own cooking, so I know that I'm eating diabetic-friendly foods. I take care of myself.

What does self-care look like to you?

I don't do very much. I get a massage when I think I need one. I’m so not complicated. I'm so not a diva, I'm a basic woman.

I get my nails done. When I have to look really cute and [have] a fierce outfit, I’m good to go, but I'm not complicated. I think a lot of people mess up when they start complicating their lives. [I’m different from] what you see on stage. I'm just laid-back with Mr. Cuddles, my dog, and chill with [the] ID channel [Investigation Discovery] or whatever.

Do you have a mantra that you follow?

I treat my people the way I want to be treated. My trash man, we went to a show together, him and his daughter, and I feel as though he is as important to me as Obama, because we're all people. I hate to see someone ignored because of their job status. So, my mantra is to be kind to everybody and if they burn you, you learned a lesson [and] you know not to go there again. But my heart is open to everybody.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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