This week, vocalists Patti LaBelle and Sam Smith stopped by Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. During the segment, the show’s host Andy Cohen asked LaBelle if her best friend, the late Luther Vandross, struggled with coming out as a gay man.
The “If Only You Knew” singer told Cohen that Vandross never publicized his sexuality because he didn’t want to “upset the world.”
“We talked about it. Basically, he did not want his mother to be...although she might have known, but he wasn’t going to come out and say this to the world. And he had a lot of lady fans and he told me he just didn’t want to upset the world,” the icon said answering Cohen.
“It was hard for him. What a wonderful man.”
How The Public Responded
When the clip of LaBelle’s statement went viral, many slammed the 73-year-old singer for outing her friend and fellow celebrity without his permission. Whereas others believed she did what a good friend is supposed to do when someone close to them struggles with their identity: fill in their humanity so others can understand and empathize.
“It’s unfortunate that Vandross declined to share who he was for the sake of his audience’s comfort, though given the state of queer acceptance back then, it’s not exactly surprising,” Jezebel journalist Rich Juzwiak wrote.
“Sounds like a hard life, though it didn’t impede Vandross’s art — perhaps it made it even more aching. I’m glad Patti LaBelle, though, filled in some details of Luther Vandross’s humanity. That’s what a good friend does.”
Wendy Williams' Two Cents
When Wendy Williams heard wind of the segment, she felt that that musician turned cook did a dishonorable thing.
“Well, Andy can ask but she should have said ‘no comment,’ “ the New Jersey native said to her audience. They began applauding as soon as she was done with her statement.
“If he had asked me something like that, it’s okay for me to talk about it because I didn’t know Luther Vandross, he wasn’t my friend. But, it’s not okay to talk about it when it’s your best friend. It’s like a violation.”
Twitter had mixed feelings on the topic at hand:
I hope Luther Vandross' ghost haunts the shit out of Patti Labelle and old messy ass Andy Cohen! Don't @ me either!
— Corey Bu-Shea (@coreybking) December 7, 2017
I really don't see why people are upset at Patti LaBelle for confirming that Luther Vandross was gay. He wasn't able to live freely in his truth, so perhaps her speaking his truth will help liberate someone else.. — Sampson (@OfficialSampson) December 7, 2017
What Patti Labelle said is very important. More specifically on how it speaks to the stigma and homophobia within our community.
— Jason (The gay BFF you always wanted) (Wakanda) (@RoseIsotope) December 7, 2017
Watch the clip from this debate, below.