Everybody wants a piece of Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie following the ascent of a viral clip that marks the kind of serendipitous promotion most business owners can only dream about.
The clip, which has been viewed over 10 million times on Facebook and 3 million times on YouTube, stars James Wright Chanel, a self-described “entertainer/singer” and Patti LaBelle superfan. After returning from a Wal-mart run where he purchased five pies, he says, Wright Chanel filmed himself taste-testing the seasonal delicacy, which the chanteuse-turned-food entrepreneur (LaBelle has also released cookbooks, sauces and marinades) vends in conjunction with the mega-retailer.
Wearing a bejeweled baseball cap and oversized glasses, Wright Chanel sniffs the pie and then slices off a wedge, which he gobbles down with his bare hands. After a few bites, he promptly erupts into song -- belting out a handful of LaBelle’s greatest hits, including On My Own, If Only You Knew, and Lady Marmalade.
"Bitch, I turned into Patti," he says, before launching into a series of stunning vocal riffs. “You turn into Patti after eating this.” Eventually, he cannot contain himself any longer, and stands up to do a little dance.
Hilarious though the clip may be, it has turned the pies, which initially launched last September, into a cult-like phenomenon. Priced at just $3.48 a piece, the item was selling at a rate of one per second after the video dropped on Nov. 12, Walmart said. As stock plummeted, demand grew so high that some were auctioning off the pies for as much as $350 on eBay.
"We're in the process of securing another two million pounds of sweet potatoes," Walmart’s vice president for bakery and deli, Kerry Robinson, told NPR last week. LaBelle told The Huffington Post that she subsequently planned to release additional products with Walmart, including three-layer caramel cake, lemon bundt cake, lobster and shrimp mac-n-cheese and a bedding line.
LaBelle and Walmart aren’t the only ones making out like bandits, however. After LaBelle said she “called [Wright Chanel] to thank him for that beautiful footage,” she noted that she would also be introducing him to some of her contacts in the music industry.
He may not need the help. A glance at Wright Chanel’s Facebook fan page, which boasts nearly 350,000 followers, reveals that he is already riding the viral wave with several performances and club appearances in the Hollywood area.