EXCLUSIVE: Patti LaBelle Films Holiday Cooking Show with Her Famous Pie Fan: ‘He’s Like My New Son’
Courtesy Cooking Channel
Patti LaBelle has given her most prominent fan the whirlwind experience of a lifetime.
The songstress’ line of sweet potato pies at Walmart became this Thanksgiving’s hot ticket item after superfan James Wright Chanel posted an instantly viral YouTube video (literally) singing its praises.
Since then, the two have become close friends, spending Thanksgiving together at LaBelle’s house and even filming a holiday television special set to air on the Cooking Channel, PEOPLE has learned exclusively.
“It’s one of those blessed stories,” LaBelle tells PEOPLE. “For his birthday, which is Thanksgiving, we were at my home. I invited him to dinner before I even met him.”
In fact, their first meeting was on the set of the show. “It was his first time seeing me, so when he came into the kitchen, he saw me and my back was turned. He came up behind me and he had on these beautiful leopard pants and a necklace,” the singer says. “We just had a love moment.”
And now, LaBelle sees herself not only as a mentor, but as a mother figure for Chanel. “He’s such a larger than life person himself; he’s like my new son. It’s just a blessing when people come into your life like this and you’re not expecting anything.”
It’s a sentiment that the YouTube star certainly echoes. “When she first called, it was like we’d known each other forever; we talked like we were best friends,” Chanel tells PEOPLE. “I told her, ‘I have to tell my mom that Patti is my new momma too.’ I said, ‘Patti, you my momma!'”
As for what we can expect from the special, the pair ensures that there will be sweet potato pie, as well as a variety of other pies. “He’s a great sous chef, I found out,” LaBelle says.
Courtesy Cooking Channel
For Chanel, the whole experience has been life-changing. “For the past few weeks, my life has been planes and hotels,” he says.
“I’ve always tried to perform with [Patti]. When she does ‘Lady Marmalade’, she calls people on stage to sing. At all of the concerts I’ve been to I never got a chance to make it on stage. And now I’m gonna be on stage with her.”
Yes, you read that right — the two are also planning a concert performance together. “We’re going to perform in more ways than one. He can be my lead singer and I’ll be his background singer,” LaBelle says.
You can watch the pair together (and get the famous pie recipe) on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 8:30 E.T. on the Cooking Channel.
—Shay Spence, @chezspence