Aretha Franklin: An Icon… and a Defender

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You would think that everything you need to know about Aretha Franklin could be heard in her songs. From her lyrics and vocals, you knew that she demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and that she was a vivacious, loud, and bold woman. However, Aretha in real life couldn’t have been more different from the diva persona she adopted when she stepped on the stage. While the world mourns for the Queen, we here at 16Personalities want to explore the woman she was.

The truth is that Aretha, the person, was quiet around those she perceived as strangers and intensely private about personal matters, for the sake of propriety. The best way to get her to warm up to you was to catch her in the kitchen.

Aretha: The Quiet Matriarch

“You hear her singin’ and you think that’s her sure-enough personality,” musician Ray Charles told David Ritz, Aretha’s biographer. “But it ain’t. She’s so shy she might not say a word to you.”

By her family, she was described as a woman who kept her career and personal life separate, and her colleagues described her as a woman of very few words. It is for these reasons that we believe that Aretha, who was traditional, firm, fiercely protective of her privacy, and a constant, steadying hand for her family, was an Assertive Defender (ISFJ-A).

According to her nephew, Tim, Aretha stepped in to fill the gap when his parents died, even though she was already the mother of four children. Though she had just lost her sister, Tim told People magazine that she “stepped right in and put her feelings aside even though she was grieving a loss... She might have grieved in private, but we never saw it.”

Defender personalities consistently go above and beyond expectations, believing that it’s their obligation and duty to fulfill their stated purpose to the best of their ability. For Aretha, that purpose was being an artist, a symbolic figure for both civil and women’s rights, and, most importantly, a provider.

“The Queen of Soul – we didn’t know her,” her nephew Tim said. “She was able to keep that separate from her personal life, so we never knew the Queen of Soul. Rather, we knew that was an accomplishment that she had made.”

Aretha: The Queen of Soul

Sentinels follow the path that their society or culture has dictated to be important or steady. For Aretha, it was her background in the black church, in traditional gospel, as well as her close network of singers and her own father – the man with the “million-dollar voice” – that guided her decision to enter music and influenced her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. It may never have been about fame for Aretha – rather, becoming a singer made sense given her natural talent and aptitude for singing.

When Aretha stepped on stage, however, she took on a completely different persona. When you listen to her music, you feel every emotion. Every lyric is filled with meaning. On stage, she bared her soul in a way that goes against the stereotype of the quiet, demure Defender. It goes to show that Sentinels, though they may be the least flashy of the personality types, are still passionate individuals who are just as capable of putting on a show as an Entertainer (ESFP).

Aretha’s mysterious nature could only be matched by her sheer talent. While we may never know her deepest inner thoughts, one thing we do we know for sure is that she’ll be missed.

Do you view Aretha as a Defender, or as something else? Let us know in the comments below!