Aretha Franklin’s funeral doesn’t take place until Friday, August 31, but already, precious pieces of her reportedly $80 million dollar estate—which Franklin left without a will in place—are in demand.
Case in point: Last Friday, August 24—just over a week after Franklin’s death at 76 on August 16—animal protection organization PETA sent a letter to Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Garrett Owens, asking the estate to donate the icon’s awe-inspiring collection of furs to PETA’s fur donation program, which recycles them for use by people in need of warmth in refugee camps and homeless shelters, and turns them into bedding for orphaned wildlife. The letter read as follows:
We’re so sorry for the loss of your aunt. The world has lost an amazing talent, and we’re grateful that her music will live on.
Aretha will always be remembered for all that she did to help empower African-American people, especially women, in her lifetime. Might we now call on her estate to help end the cruel era of wearing animal fur by donating her fur coats to PETA, where they’ll go on to offer warmth and comfort to those who need it the most? In the past, we’ve given donated fur coats—some coming from other wonderful women including Anjelica Huston, Mariah Carey, and Mary Tyler Moore—to homeless shelters in the U.S. (including in Detroit) and to displaced refugees in Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Syria.
Designers, brands, and stores are dropping fur as quickly as consumers are ditching it. As faux fur and other cruelty-free, vegan materials take over, real animal fur can be put to good use, and this generous donation would secure Aretha forever as an “Angel” for animals.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Please let us know if there’s anything that we can do to help you and your family through this difficult time.
Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, PETA
In an accompanying press release, Reiman commented, “By donating Aretha Franklin’s fur coats to PETA, her family could expand her legacy of social justice to animals. While we can’t bring back the animals who suffered and died for them, these coats can help others by providing some much-needed warmth to orphaned animals and humans in desperate need.”
It’s an admirable mission—and of course, you can’t take it with you—but anyone familiar with Franklin knows her seemingly endless array of furs weren’t just an accessory. Unlike the other celebrities mentioned who have contributed to PETA’s cause, lavish furs were one of Franklin’s longtime trademarks, often accompanying her onstage as she performed. In fact, while PETA’s mission seems altruistic, it might be argued that pieces of this particular part of the legend’s history might be considered museum-worthy—or, at the very least, should first be curated and distributed amongst Franklin’s family members and friends before any donations are made or considered.
It’s also very clear this was not a cause Franklin was aligned with in life, so attempting to parallel her dedication to the civil rights movement and status as a feminist icon with “social justice” for the animals she was clearly so fond of wearing was (in our estimation) ... a reach.
But regardless of where one stands on the issue of wearing fur, it would’ve been nice if PETA could’ve at least waited until the family had a chance to properly mourn and bury the Queen of Soul before requesting donations from her estate in such a public manner. It was simply poor form.
No word yet on whether Franklin’s estate is considering PETA’s request.