If Ashanti was at all bothered by the controversy generated by an online petition arguing that she was unworthy of the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year honor at ''Soul Train'''s Lady of Soul awards on Saturday, she didn't show it. The petition, which had garnered 28,000 electronic signatures by showtime, made producers go ballistic, posting a message on the ''Soul Train'' website accusing the petitioners of racial divisiveness, and reportedly sending a profanity-laced e-mail to the 15-year-old boy who said he launched the petition out of boredom.
But Ashanti made no mention of the quarrel, saying only, ''It's definitely an honor to just be recognized for such a prestigious award and I'm just so happy to be here with all my people who have been supporting me.''
Presenter Patti LaBelle didn't mention it either, though her introductory remarks seemed to refute the petition's claim that the 21-year-old newcomer was too short on experience, talent, and stage presence to merit a career achievement award named for the Queen of Soul. ''We have to support our babies,'' said LaBelle, who said Ashanti was ''extremely deserving of this wonderful recognition.''
Nominated for five other awards, Ashanti won one: best new solo artist. Other multiple winners were the late Aaliyah, whose ''Rock the Boat'' won best R&B solo single and song of the year, and Destiny's Child, who won best R&B/soul album of the year for ''Survivor'' and best R&B single for ''Emotion.''
Other winners at Saturday's eighth annual Lady of Soul ceremony, which took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and aired live in syndication, included:
R&B/soul album of the year, solo artist
''Songs in A Minor,'' Alicia Keys
R&B/soul or rap music video
''One Minute Man,'' Missy ''Misdemeanor'' Elliott
R&B/soul or rap new artist, for group, band or duo
''Night & Day,'' Isyss featuring Jadakiss
''Believe,'' Yolanda Adams
Lena Horne Award for outstanding career achievement