(NEWARK, N.J.) — Two of the most important women in Whitney Houston’s life, her mother Cissy Houston and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, were joined by mourners at an invitation-only “home going” ceremony at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. Saturday.
Kevin Costner remembered his The Bodyguard co-star as someone who shared the same interests and values. Both grew up in the Baptist church, a bond he said they shared over the years of their friendship.
Costner recalled Houston’s nervousness when she had to do a screen test for the role of singer Rachel Marron in the movie. “The Whitney I knew was still wondering if I’m good enough. Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?” he said. “It was what made her great, and what caused her to stumble at the end.”
A tearful Alicia Keyes remembered how Houston would reach out to young artists. “[She] made us feel strong and capable and loved,” Keyes said before she sang “Send Me an Angel.”
Houston’s longtime friend and mentor, record executive Clive Davis, said a talent like Houston’s was rare. “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that for a lifetime,” he said. “When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away.”
Stevie Wonder also performed a rousing tribute to the star, on whom he said he had a crush. He performed a version of “Ribbon in the Sky” with new lyrics all about Whitney, as well as “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”
Singer R. Kelly performed “I Look to You,” the song he’d written for Whitney’s 2009 album of the same name. Gospel star Kim Burrell performed a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” with lyrics rewritten to reflect Whitney’s life. Gospel star Donnie McClurkin performed the song “Stand.” Fellow gospel stars BeBe and CeCe Winans also performed.
Actor/director Tyler Perry addressed the crowd, reminiscing about the first time he met Houston in Atlanta.
Aretha Franklin, who had been confirmed as a performer, said Saturday that she was not able to sing at the funeral because of a medical problem.
Singer Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston’s cousin, acknowledged Franklin, who is Houston’s godmother, from the pulpit and said she felt her presence in the room. She later said in a statement, “Regretfully, I am so sorry that I was unable to be with you at Whitney’s service today. I had every intention of being there. But unfortunately I had terrible leg spasms and locked leg muscles until 4:00AM this morning following my concert last night, which I’ve been having for the last few days. I feel it necessary and very important to stay off my leg today as much as possible until concert time this evening.” She added, “My heart goes out to my dear friend Cissy, Dionne, Bobbi Kristina and the rest of the family. May God keep them all.”
Whitney’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown was present at the service, but then left. In a statement, he said, “My children and I were invited to the funeral…We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move. Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi-Kristina. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene.” He added, “This was a day to honor Whitney. I doubt Whitney would have wanted this to occur.” I will continue to pay my respects to my ex-wife the best way I know how.”
The singer will be buried Sunday in Westfield N.J.’s Fairview Cemetery. She will be laid to rest next to her father, John Russell Houston, who died in 2003.
On Friday night, members of Houston’s family and inner circle were seen getting out of gold limousines for a private viewing at a funeral home. Among them were Bobbi Kristina, Cissy Houston and Davis.
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