The “God is a Woman” singer was called back to the stage by the bishop after she finished a rendition of Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the Greater Grace Temple Friday (Aug. 31). The moment was meant to make the crowd laugh, but those watching online saw Bishop Ellis’ fingers pressed on the side of her breast. Grande’s body language showed just how awkward the moment was, which Ellis has apologized for in an interview with the Associated Press.
“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 said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
He went on to explain how he was friendly with all of the artists at the homecoming ceremony like Fantasia, Ron Isley and the Clark Sisters.
“I hug all the female artists and the male artists,” Ellis said. “Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
He also made it a point to apologize to the Hispanic community for comparing Grande’s name to an item on the Taco Bell menu.
“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.”
READ MORE: Aretha Franklin Is America (Digital Cover Story)