Ariana Grande was among the many performers at Aretha Franklin’s star-studded funeral in Detroit yesterday. After singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Grande was greeted onstage by the bishop officiating the service, Charles H. Ellis III, who joked, “When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell.” Images and footage of the interaction showed Ellis’ hand seemingly holding the side of Grande’s chest, and many took to Twitter to call him out for inappropriate touching.
The bishop apologized for his actions during an interview with the Associated Press on Friday. “It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize,” Ellis said. “I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
“The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin,” Ellis added. He also apologized for the Taco Bell joke about Grande’s last name, saying, “I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community. When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.” Ariana Grande is of Italian, not Latin, descent.
Grande herself also attracted criticism on social media for her attire, with some viewers and attendees complaining that her dress was too short for a church funeral service. Smokey Robinson, who spoke and sang at the event, agreed. “She’s a young woman and she’s doing a young thing. Yeah, I think it was inappropriate,” he told TMZ today. “I love her, I love Ariana, I think she’s a great talent. I think somebody in her camp should’ve told her she was at a funeral and not let that happen … I don’t think she was trying to be disrespectful. It was inappropriate, and somebody in her camp should’ve told her that.”
I don’t care what you think about Ariana Grande, her music or her dress. This is wrong. That bishop’s hand should not be on her breast: I just saw this because I’ve been working and not watching pic.twitter.com/ixVhgYBJTN
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) September 1, 2018