Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle were the most recent artists to appear on Verzuz Sunday night, the hugely popular Instagram Live and Apple Music show where legendary hip-hop and R&B musicians duke it out by playing the best tracks from their discographies. While it was not even a question the soul divas would give fans a fantastic battle, LaBelle made sure the episode was iconic within its first eight minutes when she gave her LGBTQ+ fans a hilarious shoutout.
After Knight closed out round one by playing her 1973 version of “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” she commented, “We can do nothing without the people that have supported us for such a long time.” Nodding in agreement, LaBelle responded, “It’s forever, and you know what? When people meet me, and they say, ‘Ooh we love you so much.’ And they say, ‘We love Gladys the same.’”
“And all of our gay fans, honey?” LaBelle continued, with over 600,000 people watching on Instagram Live. “Ooooh, thank you gay people. They keep us pumpin’!”
“Gay people?” Knight asked, to which LaBelle said, “Everybody’s people, right? And nobody’s less. I love the gay community.” Knight chimed in, “I love them, too.” They then shared a laugh and toasted each other, before LaBelle cued up her 1989 song “If You Asked Me To.”
LGBTQ+ fans of the singers exploded at the moment of recognition on social media. In the Instagram Live chat, RuPaul’s Drag Race champion Bianca Del Rio exclaimed: “WE LOVE YOU TOO!” Meanwhile, on Twitter, Pose actor Dyllón Burnside commented, “Yes Auntie Patti! You better shout out the gay fam!!!!” while Ellen food critic Kalen Allen wrote, “I want a t-shirt with Patti Labelle’s face that says Thank You Gay People!’”
LaBelle has been a vocal LGBTQ+ ally and icon within the Black gay community for years. She first gained notoriety as the frontwoman of the R&B trio Labelle (alongside bisexual musician Nona Hendryx) but exploded in popularity as a solo artist in the ‘80s and ‘90s. She used her platform to promote AIDS awareness and even became a spokeswoman for the National Minority AIDS Council in 1987.
Not to say that she’s been perfect; in 2017, she sparked backlash for posthumously outing her close friend and collaborator Luther Vandross, who faced many rumors about his sexuality before his death in 2005.
Nevertheless, she’s since spoken out in support of gay marriage, played multiple Pride festivals, and spoken in interviews about her love for her queer fans.
“When I think about it, the gay fans are some of the reason — one big reason — I’m still standing, ’cause they loved me when other people tried not to,” LaBelle told the Georgia Voice in 2017. “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.”
See more reactions from the Verzuz moment below.
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