Whitney Houston was sexually abused by a family member, documentary says

As part of the new documentary, which is authorized by Houston's family, the singer's brother Gary Houston came forward to share his own allegations of sexual abuse within the family. Watch video

There has been no lack of documentaries and films about Whitney Houston following the iconic singer’s death in 2012.

Yet the new documentary “Whitney,” which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, contains a topic not covered in previous work — allegations that Houston was sexually abused by a family member, IndieWire reports. 

Kevin Macdonald, director of the film, which will be released on July 6, discovered the allegations toward the end of interviews for the project, causing him to rearrange the whole documentary.

Since the film was authorized by the Houston family — he had the final cut but family was given access to early cuts — he had access to people who were close to the singer, a Newark native who grew up in East Orange.

Gary Houston, Whitney’s half-brother, told Macdonald that his cousin, the soul singer Dee Dee Warwick — sister of singer Dionne Warwick — had sexually abused him. He also told the director that he believed Dee Dee had abused Whitney.

Macdonald said that in the course of watching footage of Houston, he noticed that she seemed uncomfortable in her own skin.

“I’d been working on a film I never finished about child sexual abuse and it just rang a bell with me,” he told IndieWire. “Then I started to ask questions.”

An unnamed source told the director about the alleged abuse but would not agree to appear on camera. Then Gary Houston came forward. His wife, Pat Houston, Whitney’s former manager and the executor of her estate, also told Macdonald that Whitney had told her something about the subject but had not provided details.

From there, the director, who told Deadline that feelings of guilt over Whitney’s death proved to be an obstacle in getting family to distill truths about her life, was able to talk to Whitney’s aunt, Mary Jones.

Jones, Houston’s former assistant, provided more details about the alleged abuse. 

“… She had a sister who had been abused in her childhood, and she felt so strongly that this was the thing that was the catalyst of so many things in Whitney’s life,” Macdonald told IndieWire. “She wanted to talk about it.”

The director said Bobby Brown, Whitney’s ex-husband, claimed not to have known about the alleged abuse. Macdonald also mentioned “the fact that she (Whitney) couldn’t talk to her own mother about it,” indicating that gospel and soul singer Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother and Dee Dee’s aunt, may not have known, either. (Cissy was also interviewed for the documentary.)

“What’s so interesting about her is that she is unknowable because she didn’t know herself,” Macdonald said of Whitney. “That’s what the film is. How do you make a film about somebody who doesn’t even know who they are themselves?”

Macdonald said that in his eyes, the alleged abuse helped to explain the singer’s self-destructive behavior.

Houston, who died at 48 after drowning in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hilton, with cocaine use and heart disease listed as contributing factors, long struggled with drug abuse.

Dee Dee Warwick, who died in 2008 at the age of 63, had a string of hit songs as a solo singer in the 1960s and early 1970s. She was also a member of the family gospel group the Drinkard Singers alongside her sister Dionne and aunt Cissy Houston (whose maiden name was Drinkard). The group often performed at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, later the site of 2012 Houston’s funeral. Dionne and Dee Dee also performed as the Gospelaires

In addition to tackling Houston’s history of drug abuse, the documentary “Whitney” addresses the singer’s sexuality and her relationship with close friend Robyn Crawford, including claims that she had an affair with Crawford.

Crawford ultimately decided not to participate in the film.  

 

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

 

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