*In the new Whitney Houston documentary that premiered Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, friends of the singer say she was molested as a child by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick, the sister of Dionne Warwick.
Houston’s longtime assistant Mary Jones tells filmmaker Kevin Macdonald that the late singer told her that Dee Dee molested her at a young age. Houston’s brother Gary Garland-Houston also says he was molested between the ages of seven and nine by a female family member, and says his sister was abused as well.
The allegations appear about three quarters of the way into “Whitney,” a documentary made with the cooperation of Houston’s family. The alleged incidents of abuse took place while her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston was touring.
The experience is the reason Houston insisted on taking her daughter Bobbi Kristina on the road with her, Jones said. She also tells filmmakers that the alleged abuse made Houston question her own sexuality and contributed to her late-life drug problems. The singer died at the age of 48 in 2012 from what was ruled an accidental drowning in a bathtub. A coroner’s report into her death cited heart disease and drug use as contributing factors.
“We always wanted our film to be a corrective to that tabloid story,” said producer Simon Chinn. “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.”
Dee Dee Warwick, who was 18 years older than Houston, died in 2008. She and Dionne sometimes sang in Cissy Houston’s gospel group, the Drinkard Singers. Dee Dee was twice nominated for a Grammy Award and also sang backup for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and others.
Macdonald told Vanity Fair that he was suspicious of Houston’s behavior when analyzing hundreds of hours of private home footage. “There was something very disturbed about her, because she was never comfortable in her own skin,” he told the publication. “She seemed kind of asexual in a strange way. She was a beautiful woman, but she was never particularly sexy. I’ve seen and done some filming with people who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, and there was just something about her manner that was reminiscent to me of that sort of shrinking.”
“Shortly after thinking that, someone did tell me off the record about being told by Whitney about being abused, and it being one of the central reasons behind her self-torture,” he continued. “It took awhile for anyone to go on record about it, and eventually the family did.”
When Jones was asked why Houston never told her mother about the allegations, the former assistant said the singer was ashamed: “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. If Cissy had known, she would have done something about it, because Cissy loves her children.’”
“Whitney” is due in theaters on July 7. Watch the official trailer above.