Gay Iconography: Don’t Call Patti LaBelle A Diva


We've got Patti's group Labelle to thank for introducing us to "voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir" in their 1975 disco hit, "Lady Marmalade" (the group's largest ever). Watch them slay "Lady Marmalade" on an episode of Soul Train, above. The song rose to prominence in the early-aughts with the Grammy-winning, Christina Aguilera-led No. 1 hit cover.


Before Gaga, before Madonna, Labelle were rocking otherworldly styles. Their unique look definitely made them stand out (and further endeared them to the gay community). When Patti LaBelle went solo in the late '70s, she maintained her outrageous fashions, which were on display during her incredible 1985 television special. She's singing her hit "New Attitude" in the clip above, but you can watch the whole special here.


Patti's singing style can be just as over-the-top as her look. Take this love-it-or-hate-it performance of gay anthem "Over the Rainbow" from The Merv Griffin Show, for instance.


Patti spoke with Oprah about her feud with fellow iconic star Diana Ross. (She spoke about it a lot less nicely here.) Many people were scandalized when — allegedly — Diana Ross took the microphone away from LaBelle during the finale of Motown Returns to The Apollo. It's not entirely clear from the clip above, but it's worth watching anyway to see George Michael look entirely out of place and Jesse Jackson carrying Emmanuel Lewis during a massive group singalong of Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is."


Journalist Clay Cane sat down with Patti to speak directly about why she thinks she's so beloved to the gay community. You can see highlights from that interview in the video above. She discusses how her outspoken nature and big personality were big factors, as well as lending her support to transgender people. She also expressed concern for R&B singers coming out of the closet. 

Whether she's a diva, an icon, neither or both, tell us why you love (or loathe) Miss Patti in the comments.