Aretha Franklin is the reason I became a singer. She is my music hero.

I remember so vividly the first time I heard “Respect”. I was 12 years old and listening to her Greatest Hits on my iPod. I remember those first few brass notes hitting me like a tidal wave, and the very first word she sang pierced right through me. Immediately I wanted to sing like her. I memorized the words and “belted” (as only a 12-year-old could) all around the house, much to my little brothers’ annoyance. I wanted to belt my heart out and claim my right to have respect and dignity the way she did. Whenever I heard that song, I believed in myself. And I so desperately needed that as a bullied, unconfident middle schooler.

As I grew older, the song changed meaning for me as I learned about and experienced the inequality between men and women. When I decided to following my calling in music, I dove even more into her catalogue and was never uninspired by the strong emotive energy in her voice and her music. Aretha’s music makes you feel something deep inside of you, and that’s exactly what I want to do with my music.

I have many dreams and career milestones I want to hit, one of them was to sing a duet with Aretha Franklin. While that dream will never be reached, I will remember her confidence and joy she had on stage and carry that with me whenever I perform. Aretha’s regal and powerful stage presence and her ability to command a room influenced the way I perform every time I hit the stage. Her embracing of her femininity encouraged me to love my womanhood and express it through my music. Aretha was real, authentic and graceful. She earned the respect she demanded.

Thank you, Aretha. May you rest in glory.

– Julianne Q