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Cover Story: Chaka Khan on Sobriety, Weight Loss

Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan

By// S. Tia Brown
Chaka Khan opens up about everything from sobriety to her remarkable weight loss as she celebrates 40 years in the music business and living life to the fullest.
Audacious. That’s still the most apropos way to describe the woman born Yvette Marie Stevens. Less than two months from her 60th birthday, that rambunctious, full-bodied yet pint-sized dynamo who earned the name Chaka (which means woman of fire) from an African shaman, still brandishes her singe-factor well.
The phenomenon that is Chaka Khan— from Black Panther supporter to 40-year show business veteran— is now equal parts accessible community elder and beloved music icon. Check the record: 22 albums, 10 No. 1 singles and 10 Grammy Awards. And, most important, she has lived, honey.

She’s a former hard-core drug abuser who now has a white-knuckled grip on sobriety. She’s a revolutionary hell-raiser who used to carry a gun, but now touts peace and education as a community organizer via the Chaka Khan Foundation. She’s been married and divorced, has grown kids and currently raises her grandbaby. She’s traveled the world, partied at every hot spot, yet today counts the minutes until pulling into her own driveway. She’s changed her religion, her name and revamped her look. Through the fire, one thing has remained the same: her purpose. Khan loves to help. She uses her voice, her time and spirit to heal.
“I have nothing to hide,” she tells JET, nestled in her Los Angeles home when asked about her life and handling the press. “Discernment and selectivity are two great applications that one can employ in every aspect of living. If I’ve gotten any wiser over time, those are the two things that I’ve learned.”
A revitalized Khan is celebrating her entrée into a fresh season with a new album, The iKhan Project; a unisex fragrance, Khana Sutra; and gourmet chocolate, Chakalates, that will all be releasing throughout 2013. But before she could move forward, the music icon had to let go of a lot of dead weight— both figuratively and physically.

“I was not happy with a lot of s**t,” she offers candidly, without pause. “I was with a horrible dude. My son Damien had been through a bad ordeal several years ago (he was accused and acquitted of the 2004 shooting death of 17-year-old Christopher Bailey in 2006). That’s when the whole spiral started. I was trying to self-medicate and overeat. I was going to court and working on the road. My balancing balls were not all in the same weight, so I had to get them even again.”

That meant making changes. Some were quite drastic. “I went on a total liquid diet. Everything I put in my mouth was liquid for a whole year,” says the singer, who was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure a few years prior. “I did some dance classes and walking, stuff I like to do. I didn’t like to grunt on freaking machines.”

Her plan worked. The living legend shed a considerable amount of weight, and put women half her age to shame with her downsized physique, which she unveiled with a skintight catsuit during the American Idol finale last May. “I feel great and I lost 75 pounds.”

The new look simply became a reflection of what was already percolating on the inside. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. Not a bad place to be at any stage of life, especially approaching 60. Here Khan shares 12 pearls of wisdom on how to live life like it’s golden.