Whitney Houston Lifetime TV Movie Condemned by Sister-in-Law and Estate President: "Brace Yourself for the Worst"

The biopic, which stars Yaya DaCosta as the late iconic "I Will Always Love You" singer, premieres on the cable channel on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

By Corinne Heller Jan 17, 2015 8:41 PMTags
Yaya DaCosta, Whitney Houston, Stars Playing Real PeopleJack Zeman/Lifetime 2014; Arista Records

Whitney Houston's sister-in-law Pat Houston, president of the late pop icon's estate, says potential viewers of an upcoming Lifetime Television biopic about the singer should "brace" themselves for the "worst."

The TV movie, which stars Yaya DaCosta in the main role, premieres on the cable channel on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Several family members have spoken out against the film, which was made without their blessing. Whitney one of the most famous singers in the world and star of The Bodyguard, died at age 48 in 2012.

"My daughter came home from high school yesterday and shared with me inquiries she had endured from her peers and teachers about the upcoming TV movie about her aunt Whitney," Pat said in her statemen, posted on Friday on Whitney's website. "She was somewhat exasperated and said she did not get it—that a woman who claimed to be her aunt's friend would direct a movie that seems so unloving towards her Aunt, and how it could affect her cousin Krissi."

"I say this to all Whitney's family, friends and fan base: If you watch this movie, watch it knowing that Lifetime is notorious for making bad biopics of deceased celebrities and brace yourself for the worst," she said, adding that "misrepresenting the term friendship to advance an agenda is not only disrespectful and dishonest but a slap in the face to her true and loyal friends."

Lifetime and director Angela Bassett, who co-starred with Whitney in the 1995 movie Waiting to Exhale, have not commented on Pat's remarks. The movie marks Bassett's directorial debut. In a statement released by Lifetime last year, she said, "I have such regard for both Whitney's and Bobby's amazing talents and accomplishments and I feel a responsibility in the telling of their story."

The Whitney biopic depicts the turbulent relationship between the singer and fellow pop star Bobby Brown. Whitney and Bobby wed at her New Jersey home in 1992 and divorced in 2006. They had one child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, who is 21. Whitney is also survived by her mother, Cissy Houston, and brother, Gary Houston. Pat said Cissy had asked specifically for the Whitney movie not to be made.

"We have dealt with her every emotion from the day she was born until the day she died, which gives us absolute position and absolute authority as a family to feel the way we do about her legacy," Pat said. "We matter. We're still here. Why wasn't there a call to myself, Gary, Cissy or even her daughter? Why deny selected members of the family an advanced copy of the film?"

The movie stars Arlen Escarpetas as Bobby and Suzzanne Douglas as Whitney's mother, while singer Deborah Cox provides the pop star's singing voice. Because the family did not authorize the making of the biopic, no original recordings by the singer could be used in it. 

Whitney, Pat said, would never "allow her story to be told by an inexperienced team."

Whitney's struggle with drug addiction is depicted in the movie as well. The singer, who had battling substance abuse for years, had died accidental drowning in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California, while cocaine use and heart disease were contributing factors in her death, the Los Angeles Coroner's Office had said.

"I don't think it ever entered their minds that they were assaulting the legacy of another individual; they just want the job or the opportunity to shine," Pat said. "But to do so in such an incredible way, to go after someone who cannot correct what you get wrong, someone who—like so many people, and especially women—struggled to hold up their humanity and live with dignity despite their personal challenges, is wrong."