A new documentary — premiering at Cannes — about the life of Whitney Houston is making stunning claims about the late singer’s early years.
“Whitney” alleges Houston’s cousin, singer Dee Dee Warwick, sexually abused her as a child. Warwick, who is the sister to Dionne Warwick, died in 2008, four years before Houston’s death.
According to documentary director Kevin Macdonald, Houston’s half-brother Gary Garland told him he had been molested by Warwick and believed his sister had also been sexually abused. Garland’s wife confirmed Houston had confided in her about the abuse but did not elaborate on details. Houston’s aunt, Mary Jones, also confirmed the abuse story to Macdonald, as did another family member who did not wish to appear on camera.
The director first reached out to family members after watching hours of footage of the singer.
“There was something about her discomfort in her own skin, something about the way she presents or hides herself, her lack of overt sexuality,” he tells Indiewire following the film’s premiere at Cannes. “She’s this beautiful woman but she’s very closed in her demeanour.”
Macdonald says he was reminded about a previous film on sexually abused children after watching months of footage of Houston.
The director reached out to Houston’s former husband, Bobby Brown, to find out if he was aware of the abuse.
“He claims not to know. I wouldn’t be surprised if [Houston] didn’t tell him,” he explains. “When you hear Mary Jones talking about it at the end, the shame that Whitney had about it, the fact that she couldn’t talk to her own mother about it… I can’t imagine she would have gone there, but this is all supposition.”
“Whitney” opens in theatres on July 13.