The explosive allegation that Whitney Houston was molested as a child by her cousin, the late singer Dee Dee Warwick, almost never made it into the documentary that cast new light on the pop star's tragic life, the film's director says.
Kevin Macdonald, the director of Whitney, had nearly completed work on the documentary when several of Houston's relatives decided it was time to reveal a dark family secret.
“I was just coming to the end of the edit,” Macdonald told the New York Post. “We had worked on it for about 18 months, and then we heard this bombshell, which redefined the whole thing.”
The revelation became public in May, when the documentary premiered at Canne Film Festival. Houston's aunt Mary Jones, who worked for a time as her assistant, said the late singer told her that Warwick molested her when she was a child. Warwick, who was 18 years older than Houston, died in 2008.
Pat Houston, the wife of Whitney's brother Gary Garland-Houston, also confirmed the abuse. The film reveals that Gary was abused by Warwick as well.
“There were always a lot of secrets,” he confesses in the documentary, according to the New York Post. “If you don’t resolve things and you don’t deal with things, they never go away.”
Jones also claimed that Houston's drug problems stemmed from the abuse, which also led her to question her own sexuality, Page Six reported back in May. Houston died in 2012 in an accidental bathtub drowning, where the coroner’s report cited heart disease and drug use as contributing factors.
Simon Chinn, one of the documentary's producers, told Page Six they wanted to explore Houston’s life beyond the narrative of her drug abuse, and he thinks the new insight into Houston's childhood could provide a deeper understanding of her journey.
“We always wanted our film to be a corrective to that tabloid story,” Chinn told Page Six. “These are specific revelations that I think will get people to a deeper understanding of who Whitney was and in many ways redeem her as a person.”
Macdonald, who won an Oscar for his documentary One Day In September, told the New York Post he wanted to focus also on celebrating her journey as “one of the great artists of the late 20th century.”
“I wanted to try and understand and make a human portrait of this person who had become a kind of tabloid freak show,” Macdonald told the newspaper. “I wanted people to see her on a human level as the little girl who got lost.”
The documentary opens in theaters Friday.
[Photo Whitney Houston seen at a concert, circa 1986. By Dave Hogan/Getty Images]