During an interview with the Associated Press at the cemetery where Franklin was laid to rest following her 8-hour “Celebration of Life” funeral service on Friday, Ellis expressed regret for the way he touched the singer onstage and for saying he initially thought the 25-year-old singer was a new menu item at Taco Bell.
“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Ellis said. “When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”
He also apologized for touching Grande too close to her chest during their televised interaction.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis continued. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
Continuing, he added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
After watching Grande honor the late Queen of Soul at the service, the American Apostolic Pentecostal preacher said that, “When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell.”
“My 28-year-old daughter tells me, ‘Dad! You are old at 60’ ” he joked.
In the moment, Grande appeared to take the joke in stride, as she proceeded to laugh and give Ellis a hug.
“Girl, let me give you all your respect,” Ellis then remarked. “Did you enjoy this icon? She is an icon herself. Come on, make her feel loved.”
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In addition to performing a soulful rendition of Franklin’s song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” many fans also drew attention to the black mini dress she wore for the occasion.
Luckily for Ariana, not everyone was taken aback by her outfit choice.
“I understand that y’all are mad about her dress and all. But understand, @ArianaGrande was one of Aretha’s favorite younger gen vocalists,” wrote one defender. “The service is about honoring the Queen and she did just that. Stuck to her part and sang the hell outta A Natural Woman. Let that hurt go….”
“Ariana Grande did THAT. She showed her love for Aretha in ways that many of us can’t and ya’ll are focusing on the way she chooses to dress. Lmao okay,” another fan tweeted.