The story behind the 100 pink Cadillacs at Aretha Franklin’s funeral

The story behind the 100 pink Cadillacs at Aretha Franklin’s funeral
Image: Leah Millis
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More than 100 pink Cadillacs filled the streets outside of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit today (Aug. 31) to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul on the day of her funeral. The gesture was inspired by Franklin’s iconic hit “Freeway of Love,” in which she sings about cruising in a pink Cadillac:

It turns out most of the cars participating in the homage are affiliated with the cosmetics brand Mary Kay Inc.

The multilevel marketing company leases pink Cadillacs to top-selling salespeople, aka “beauty consultants,” that have sold $100,000 worth of Mary Kay products in a year.

Crisette Ellis, who put out an online call for pink caddie owners to join the display, is a national sales director for Mary Kay, which explains why most of the cars in Franklin’s procession ended up being from fellow Mary Kay employees. But it’s worth noting that Mary Kay’s business model has been called a pyramid scheme, and the company has faced accusations of preying on women.

In order to qualify for the coveted pink Cadillac ”career car,” which comes with achieving Mary Kay’s “Grand Achiever” level of sales, consultants must each build a sales team of 12 or more members and net a minimum of $18,000 in product orders within 4 months (consultants can only contribute $4,000 of their own money toward the $18,000 requirement). If consultants are then able to hit the $100,000 mark within a year, they don’t actually get to own the cars—rather, Mary Kay comps two-year “co-op leases,” after which they can choose to sell their cars back to the dealership or purchase them. Consultants can also opt for a monthly cash incentive.

The career car program began in 1969 when Mary Kay Ash herself rewarded her top five sellers with a blush-colored ride. Today, there are more than 1,000 pink top-seller Cadillacs on the road, some of which traveled from different states to play a role in Franklin’s funeral.