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How Patti LaBelle’s Pie Career Has Changed Her Life: ‘I Feel Better Than I Did When I Was 30’

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Throughout her life Patti LaBelle has cultivated two passions: singing—which has led to an iconic music career spanning more than five decades—and cooking, which has ushered in a new chapter for her.

Though she released her first cookbook in 1999, her culinary career hit the next level in 2015 when her Walmart sweet potato pies became an instant sensation, thanks in part to YouTuber James Wright Chanel’s viral ode to them.

“Whenever I’d make pies at home, people would just go crazy and would ask for more. So I said, ‘I know this is right, and I think we better do something with this idea,'” LaBelle tells PEOPLE in the latest issue, on newsstands now. “I expected them to do well because the taste is phenomenal, but I didn’t know that it would become what it is.”

Bob Martus

She now has a wide variety of desserts available at Walmart, from pies to cobblers to cakes, and a new cookbook, Desserts LaBelle: Soulful Sweets to Sing About (which, yes, includes the famous sweet potato pie recipe). For LaBelle, this success has given her a rejuvenated spirit. “I feel better than I did when I was 30 or 40,” she says. “I’m singing better than I did back in the day. It’s just been wonderful.”

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This youthful feeling comes not only from her career, but her tight-knit family—including her son and manager, Zuri, 42, and granddaughter, Gia, 2. “She likes to dance and she plays like she’s on stage with the little pretend mic,” says LaBelle. “She’ll hold the mic and sing, ‘Patti, Patti!’ I think she’s making me lighter and happier and feeling like a young girl again.”

Bob Martus

FROM PEN: Super Chef David Burke Shows You How To Make a Decadent Peanut Butter Waffle Sandwich

And with everything happening in her life, don’t expect the legendary singer to drop her own mic any time soon. “It’s amazing the things that are happening to me after age 70,” she says. “I’m a hardworking woman and I love it. People keep saying to me, ‘It seems like you’re just getting started, Miss LaBelle.'”

For more on LaBelle and an exclusive recipe from her cookbook, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.