When I think of Aretha Franklin, her short bangs and teased bouffant of the ‘60s come to mind. I imagine her in a glimmering dress on stage with her long, white gloves and back-up dancers shimmying to the beat. (Clearly, I watch a lot of archival footage on BET.)
But my Aretha isn’t everyone’s Aretha. The Queen of Soul, who passed away on August 16, had a music career that spanned over 50 years and three generations. In that time, she influenced all the women in my family, including myself. My mom’s Aretha was an activist with an Afro and fist raised against racial injustice, whereas my grandmother was fondest of Aretha’s glamorous side, with her penchant for hats and fur. Throughout her life, her hair and makeup looks were in constant rotation (she had an affinity for wigs), but her powerful voice and place of pride in the Black community sustained.
To honor her life, I called on my matriarchs to share their memories of Aretha — and had my Refinery29 co-workers do the same. Like any Black mother, they all kept it real, recalling the looks they loved and the ones they could do without. The one thing they all agreed on, though, is that Aretha was an original. She didn’t care what anyone thought, and she set trends instead of following them — and that's something we'll always remember.