Tuesday began a week of services honoring the late legend Aretha Franklin, who died at 76 of pancreatic cancer on August 16, leading up to her funeral on Friday at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. After being received at the Swanson Funeral Home in Flint, Franklin’s body was brought to lay in state at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where fans are invited to attend a public viewing of the Queen of Soul for two days. She arrived at the museum on Tuesday in a gold-plated Promethean casket, dressed head-to-toe in crimson and ruby red — including her nails, lipstick, and high heels, with her ankles crossed to symbolize her poise — as a nod to her being an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a historically black sorority which will also hold a service for Franklin on Tuesday night. “What we wanted to do is be reflective of the Queen,” museum board member Kelly Major Green told the Associated Press. “It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.” The heels in particular, which are confirmed to be five-inch patent-leather Christian Louboutins (!), Green says, were deliberately chosen by her family to make the statement that “The Queen of Soul is [a] diva to the end.”
Her casket is surrounded by bouquets of pink, white, lavender, gold, and red roses and orchids. “If you ever received flowers from my aunt they would be big, beautiful arrangements,” Franklin’s niece (and potential estate executor), Sabrina Owens, told CNN. “She sent them on birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.” Fans inside who come to pay their respects are treated to her gospel recordings, at the family’s request. According to the Swanson Funeral Home, all funeral arrangements were not instructed by Franklin herself prior to her death. “She never talked about death. She was very much all about life,” director Linda Swanson tells the Detroit Free Press. “She is presented in a way that reflects her life and her legacy. She is, indeed, resplendent in repose, as a queen should be.” Outside of the museum, a pink Cadillac is parked and, during Friday’s funeral service, it will join a full motorcade of pink Cadillacs as a nod to Franklin’s song “Freeway of Love.” (Her body was also driven to the museum in a vintage white 1940 Cadillac LaSalle hearse, the same one used for her father the Rev. C.L. Franklin’s funeral and Rosa Parks’s funeral.)
The choice to hold her body in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum is also of a note: It was the largest black museum in the country until the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016, and was the site of a similar public viewing for Rosa Parks in 2005. And who sang at Parks’s funeral but none other than Franklin. (The two will be buried at the same cemetery.) And for a homegoing fit for a diva, Franklin will have one final wardrobe change for her funeral. “It’s a surprise,” Swanson says. “Just natural changes in wardrobe that a queen would make.” (A fur coat, perhaps?) Franklin’s funeral will be held on Friday — and livestreamed and broadcast to the public — with performances from Stevie Wonder and more.
Update, August 30: We now know Aretha’s wardrobe change: The Associated Press reports that, for her final day of public viewing on Wednesday, Franklin’s outfit was changed from all red to a light-blue dress and shoes. Franklin’s niece told the AP that her aunt was now dressed in “something she would have selected for herself” for a performance.