Whitney Houston was sexually abused by her cousin, the late soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, according to a new documentary that premiered at Cannes.
The film by Kevin Macdonald is the story of the singer’s life, as authorised by her family. Houston died in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel in February 2012, aged 48.
Gary Garland, Houston’s brother, speaks of their childhood in the film, Whitney, and says his greatest trauma was being molested “by a female relative” between the ages of seven and nine.
Houston’s aunt Mary Jones, who found her body, says Houston told her the same thing.
She recalls Houston saying: “Mary, I was too. It was a woman.”
Jones, asked if the person was named, replies: “It was Dee Dee Warwick.”
Houston never told her mother Cissy, out of fear of the repercussions.
“I think she was ashamed,” says Jones in the film.
Houston endured a tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown from 1992 to 2007, which was notorious for violent outbursts and abuse. Despite the marriage, Houston’s bisexuality has long been rumoured in the music industry. In the documentary, Jones suggests the abuse made Whitney “question her sexual preference”.
Bobby Brown and Whitney had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who died in July 2015 aged 22, after being found — like her mother — unresponsive in a bathtub.
In the documentary, the family discuss their early life in Newark, New Jersey, which is the same state the Warwicks hail from.
Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick sang with Cissy Houston in the New Hope Baptist Church choir in Newark. Eventually, the three women formed the gospel trio the Gospelaires, who often performed with the Drinkard Singers. Cissy Houston was a member of both groups.
Dee Dee Warwick, Houston’s cousin, was 18 years her senior, and one of the first openly gay women in the music industry and alongside her sister Dionne, five years older, was a huge hit in the ’60s and ’70s.
Her 1966 song I’m Gonna Make You Love Me was remade into a huge pop hit the following year by Madeline Bell, and then reached No 2 in the US pop charts (No 3 in the UK) when recorded as a duet between the Supremes and the Temptations.
Warwick always struggled to emerge from her older sister’s shadow, however, and lived a troubled life.
“Dee Dee was openly lesbian in the music industry,” one anonymous source close to the Warwick family said. “Not necessarily in public, but I don’t think that was a secret within the music industry. And that was a detriment to her development also, because she didn’t hide it within the music industry.”
It also brought her closer to Houston, the insider says. “Whitney felt closer to Dee Dee by virtue of them sharing a similar orientation. It is interesting that there is that connection.”
Dee Dee Warwick spent her last years battling a lengthy narcotics addiction and died in 2008, aged 63.