The estate-approved Whitney Houston documentary, Whitney, premiered on Wednesday at Cannes, and with it came a set of devastating revelations about the late singer’s life.
Vanity Fair reports that the film, which includes interviews with Houston’s close family and friends, reveals that Houston and her half-brother Gary were allegedly sexually abused as children by their cousin Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne Warwick’s sister. When director Kevin Macdonald finally got Whitney’s longtime assistant Mary Jones to be interviewed on camera, he says Jones told him:
“[Houston] looked at me and said, ‘Mary, I was molested at a young age, too. But it wasn’t by a man—it was a woman. She had tears in her eyes. She says, ‘Mommy don’t know the things we went through.’ I said, ‘Have you ever told your mother?’ She says, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, maybe you need to tell her.’ She said, ‘No, my mother would hurt somebody if I told her who it was.’ She just had tears rolling down her face, and I just hugged her. I said, ‘One day when you get the nerve, you need to tell your mother. It will lift the burden off you.’”
Jones also told Macdonald, in reference to why Houston didn’t speak about her experiences before, “I think she was ashamed...She used to say, ‘I wonder if I did something to make [Dee Dee] think I wanted her.’ I said, ‘Stop. A predator is a predator is a predator.’”
The documentary also confirms the long rumored relationship between Houston and her best friend Robyn Crawford (who declined to be involved with the movie), and several people in the movie reportedly refer to Houston’s sexuality as “fluid.”
Considering this is an estate-approved project (following last year’s documentary Can I Be Me, which was not made in coordination with Houston’s estate), it is surprising how deep Macdonald’s work delves into Houston’s life, uncovering betrayal from her family members, insights into her drug addiction, and details of her death. Amy Kaufman of the Los Angeles Times tweeted that the documentary reveals Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, whose death in 2015 mirrored her mothers, attempted suicide once while Houston was still alive.
Macdonald was able to gain so much trust from Houston’s circle to tell her story because, as he told Vanity Fair, the documentary was a way to redeem her reputation. “What are you protecting anymore?” he says. “This film hopefully kind of forgives [Houston] for this extraordinary self-destruction and destruction of her daughter’s experience, and hopefully helps people understand her in a different [light].”