Kevin Macdonald’s Whitney Houston documentary claims that the American singer was sexually abused as a child by her cousin, soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, Entertainment Weekly reported. Whitney was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.
Dee Dee Warwick, the sister of singer Dionne Warwick, died in 2008. “Celebrated in the 1960s and early 1970s for the beauty of her voice and appearance, her career was overshadowed by record-company mismanagement and the fame of her sibling, older by five years,” an obituary in the Guardian noted.
Houston died at the age of 48 on February 11, 2012, by accidentally drowning in her bathtub. Her death was attributed to heart disease and prolonged substance abuse.
The documentary features interviews with Houston’s relatives and close friends, including Houston’s aunt and longtime assistant Mary Jones. She claims that the singer had been sexually abused by Dee Dee, the niece of Houston’s mother Cissy. Jones reportedly says that the incident had a lasting impact on the singer’s life, making her question her sexual preference. Jones adds that Houston did not tell her mother about the incident because she was ashamed.
According to the Entertainment Weekly report, Houston’s half-brother Gary Houston also says in the film that he was sexually abused between the ages of seven and nine by a female family member.
Houston released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, selling over 200 million records worldwide. She made her screen acting debut alongside Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard (1992).
Whitney is the second documentary about the singer after Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me. Unlike the previous film, MacDonald’s documentary has been made with the support and consent of the Houston estate. Whitney will be released in the United States of America and United Kingdom on July 6.
In an interview with IndieWire, MacDonald said that Whitney’s “closed demeanor” and “her discomfort in her own skin” reminded him of his unfinished film on child sexual abuse. “Then I started to ask questions,” he said. “That led somebody to tell me, Whitney told me she was abused, but they wouldn’t go on camera.”
The director said that he also asked Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown about the abuse. “He claims not to know,” MacDonald said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [Houston] didn’t tell him. When you hear Mary Jones talking about it at the end, the shame that Whitney had about it, the fact that she couldn’t take to her own mother about it… I can’t imagine she would have gone there, but this is all supposition.”