Aretha Franklin will always be known for her transcendent voice and how that voice changed music. But she was also known for fighting for what’s hers, taking exception to anyone passing negative judgment on her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. That refusal to take any bullshit from anyone was a huge part of her non-musical legacy, and helped her ascend to the highest levels of music stardom. (An example: Franklin always demanded to be paid in cash on the spot, because she saw so many of her contemporaries get ripped off.)
It also made her a woman you did not want to cross, which famed gossip columnist Liz Smith, like many others, found out the hard way.
In 1993, Smith wrote a column in the New York Post giving Franklin a backhanded compliment that praised her diva mentality while simultaneously implying that the Queen of Soul dressed inappropriately for her body type. “She [Aretha Franklin] must know she’s too bosomy to wear such clothing, but she just doesn’t care what we think, and that attitude is what separates mere stars from true divas,” Smith wrote.
Smith started this fight with a scold, but Franklin would end it when she penned a letter dragging Smith to absolute filth. It’s a clapback so throttling, reading it snatched a little part of my soul.
In 1993 NY Post columnist Liz Smith wrote: "[Aretha Franklin] must know she’s too bosomy to wear such clothing, but she just doesn't care what we think, and that attitude is what separates mere stars from true divas.”— Letters of Note (@LettersOfNote) August 16, 2018
Aretha wrote to her... pic.twitter.com/wpm6JlbqDa
“How dare you be so presumptuous as to presume you could know my attitudes with respect to anything other than music,” she wrote. “Obviously I have enough of what it takes to wear a bustier and I haven’t had any complaints, I’m sure if you could, you would. When you get to be a noted and respected fashion editor please let us all know.”
And then there was the postscript to end all postscripts: “P.S. You are hardly in any position to determine what separates stars from divas since you are neither one or an authority on either.”
In other words, if you come for the Queen of Soul, you better not miss. And Aretha made sure you knew this.