Pamela Anderson, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Ripa, Nelly Furtado, and others pay tribute to Aretha Franklin

By Clarissa Cruz
April 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Mary J. Blige: Frank Micelotta/Image Direct

VH1 Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin

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Whether it was wholesome ”Live with Regis and Kelly” cohost Kelly Ripa confessing her own stalking tendencies or bodacious presenter Pamela Anderson extolling the joys of being a ”natural woman” (really?), there was no shortage of entertaining moments at Tuesday night’s VH1 ”Divas Live” concert honoring Aretha Franklin.

Held at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall, the fourth annual event featured performances from the Queen of Soul, along with Mary J. Blige, Nelly Furtado, Jill Scott, Kid Rock, Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, and a surprise appearance by Stevie Wonder in the group finale number, ”Freeway of Love.”

”When Aretha goes onstage, she just feels it out — and it’s all about feel, all about soul,” said Nelly Furtado, who performed her hit ”I’m Like a Bird.” But did the Canadian newcomer feel worthy of taking part in the festivities? ”I don’t think that being included in the event really makes me a diva,” she said. ”I just think it’s just a way to express my love for Aretha Franklin.” ”Will & Grace” diva Eric McCormack shared that sentiment: ”It’s important to celebrate Aretha. But divadom? To me [the word diva] has a negative connotation, so it’s fun to see people reclaiming it and making it positive.”

While there was certainly enough onstage merriment to keep TV viewers happy (the Radio City audience was treated to an extended Aretha and Co. jam session after the on air credits rolled), it’s the behind the scenes intrigue that earns us journalistic R-E-S-P-E-C-T (or at least a few more website hits). Here’s’s rundown of backstage gossip culled during the show.

SILK STALKINGS It’s hard to imagine the fresh faced (and very pregnant) Kelly Ripa doing anything remotely sinister, but the ”Regis” hostess related an unsavory moment about first meeting Aretha. ”She was on ‘The View’ and I was stalking her outside of her dressing room because it [and ”Regis” are both] shot in the same studio,” said Ripa. ”Of course I made a fool out of myself: I said ‘Hello, your majesty,’ and I bowed.”

VH1 Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin

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