NEW YORK — Now that the Queen of Soul has found her king, she's focusing on all the key details of her upcoming nuptials, including the place, the entertainment and, most important, the dress.
"You know I am very hands-on. There is no way in the world anyone else could do my wedding other than myself, along with whomever I select to do various things," she told The Associated Press.
Aretha Franklin announced to the AP in a statement earlier this week that she was engaged to longtime friend Willie Wilkerson. In a phone interview Wednesday night from Atlanta, where her late father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, was to be honored by the Trumpet Awards for his achievements, a jovial Franklin said Wilkerson's proposal wasn't entirely unexpected.
"We were ... just kind of talking along those lines, and then it got very serious," she said. "I just said, 'Is that a proposal?' and he said 'yes.' And that's how that happened; we just kind of talked into it."
Now Franklin is starting to plan the wedding, including talking to designers Donna Karan and Vera Wang about her dress.
"I'd love to see what they would do custom for me . without me saying anything. They're known for kick butt (dresses)," she said.
She's also scouting locations for the ceremony, which she estimates will include about 250 people. While the Detroit native initially considered Miami Beach, Fla., for a June or July wedding, she's now leaning toward "the exclusive Hamptons" in Long Island, N.Y., where friends have a house with a private beach.
"I'm kind of leaning that way because it's closer to home, and more friends could get there easily," she said.
And who would perform at the wedding of one of music's top legends? Franklin said she hasn't asked anyone but has her preferences.
"I would love to have Smokey (Robinson) sing, my dearest, oldest friend," she said, adding gospel singer Karen Clark and Stevie Wonder to her list.
Franklin has two previous marriages. When asked why she was ready to try a third time at age 69, she said: "I like being married. It's an institution that I like. So momentarily I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be married."
Franklin also said she'd like to have someone to lean on.
"I need taking care of a little more, I think. Let someone else be strong," she said.
Wilkerson was a longtime friend before their relationship became romantic, which is proof, she said, that "sometimes what you're looking for is already there."
Franklin said she was in a relationship with a celebrity before she and Wilkerson got serious.
"We had an intimate affair. (He was) one of America's late-night talk-show hosts," she said without elaborating. Franklin said the end of that relationship had a silver lining.
"At this point I'm thrilled it didn't (work), and what I was looking for was already here," she said.
Franklin said being longtime friends with Wilkerson "bodes well" for their relationship.
"We're very compatible, and he supports me and I support him a lot, and he has given me specialized attention that I don't think I've received from anyone else," she said.
"I receive a lot of male attention, but Will is more special than all the rest."
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's music editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi