Why Aretha Franklin’s Estate Is Upset with Wendy Williams

Talk show host Wendy Williams, who is no stranger to feuding with celebrities, is taking aim at the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. And Franklin’s estate isn’t having it. Keep reading to learn more about the feud between the talk show host and Franklin’s estate.

How it started

On a March 15, 2019, episode of Williams’ talk show, The Wendy Williams Show, Williams discussed Amazing Grace, Franklin’s 1972 church performance which will premiere nationwide next month, according to the Detroit Free Press. Williams’ comments were less than the glowing reviews Franklin’s film has been receiving.

About ‘Amazing Grace’

Amazing Grace is a film that documents Franklin recording her gospel album, Amazing Grace, at a Los Angeles church in 1972. Sydney Pollack, an Academy Award winning director, shot the film. Decades later, University of California Los Angeles music professor, Alan Elliot, edited the footage to create the film that will be released on April 19, 2019.

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin | MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images

Before her death, Franklin opposed the film, halting production because she claimed she hadn’t agreed to the use of her likeness. Franklin’s estate said her hesitation about the movie didn’t have to do with the quality of the film.

“While Franklin had initially imposed an injunction on ‘Amazing Grace,’ her objections had nothing to do with its quality; negotiations were incomplete at the time of her death,” Franklin’s estate said in a statement.

What Williams said

In the segment about Franklin, Williams took aim at multiple aspects of Amazing Grace. She questioned those who worked on the film. “When you don’t have real professional people doing real professional things for you, sometimes you lose out,” Williams said.

Williams also said, “Nobody’s going to the movies to see a one-shot deal, like black-and-white.” Pollock used five cameras in creating the film. Williams took aim at Franklin’s less-than-glamorous appearance in church. She also questioned the film’s release date, saying that Franklin’s estate probably needed the money from the film’s ticket sales.

Wendy Williams
Wendy Williams | Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

“I would imagine that now the bill collectors are like, ‘OK, rest in peace, Aretha Franklin. But we still need our money for this, we need money for that,’” Williams said. “So by putting this movie out, I would say the estate is probably going to be paying bills with this.”

How Franklin’s estate responded

Franklin’s estate released a lengthy statement clapping back at Williams’ criticisms on her show.

Here’s what the statement said about Franklin’s appearance in the film: “1972 was the era of Black Power and Black Is Beautiful. In her short natural hair and simple makeup, Ms. Franklin was in step with the times and appropriate to the occasion. There was no ‘showgirl glamor,’ no ‘pressed hair’ and no ‘eyelashes’ – the lack of which Williams ridiculed on her program. The simplicity of the presentation gives ‘Amazing Grace’ its power.”

The statement was also explicit about the quality of the film and Williams’ dig about only one camera being used. “Contrary to Williams’ derisive reference, there is no “Cousin Junebug” making decisions for the Estate.”