By Eleonora Zuares
Aretha Franklin, also known as the “Queen of Soul”, passed away on August 16th at the age of 76, while battling her pancreatic cancer. Her memorial was held at Detroit’s Charles H, a museum of African American history in Detroit. Many artists such as Stevie Wonder, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor, and Chaka Khan showed up to honor the “I Say a Little Prayer” singer.
Out of all these stars, one that “stood out” was Ariana Grande, who was asked to perform the song “Natural Woman”, one of Franklin’s signature hits. The event created a lot of controversies, because of what followed after the singer performed. Pastor Charles Ellis III, who was leading the funeral, greeted the singer in a way that was considered a little too friendly. This led to the public having different points of view, many went against him, while others still supported the bishop’s behavior.
Most of the people that bared witness to the event were furious and described Charles Ellis III behavior as unacceptable and inappropriate. They continued by stating that the singer looked uncomfortable and that the way he greeted her was awkward and too friendly. Stars such as Claudia Jordan also gave her opinion on the situation, telling Ariana Grande: “I’m really sorry you had to go through that, that groping was beyond blatant and we could all feel and see your discomfort.”
However, there were people that opposed this view and defended the bishop. Some argued that Ellis didn’t do anything wrong that he was only trying to make the singer feel welcomed and loved.
Others blamed it on Ariana Grande, attacking the way she was dressed and saying that this situation wouldn’t have happened if she was dressed in a more conservative outfit. A news commentator stated that “she needs to apologize for that dress being so short and being dressed inappropriately for the funeral.” They were also upset as they believed that the memorial’s focus wasn’t Aretha Franklin anymore, which was considered to be highly disrespectful. People felt that Ariana Grande became the focus of the memorial and ruined the event entirely.
Amidst all the controversy surrounding the event, the bishop decided to publicly apologize saying, “It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” and, “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.” He continued, saying he hugged everyone that attended the memorial: “I hugged all the female artists and the male artists, everybody that came up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
He added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.” However, the singer decided not to comment on the controversy, but reporters say that this event is one of the reasons she is experiencing serious anxiety and mental health problems that she already dealt with in the past.