In a new documentary chronicling the life and death of Whitney Houston, those closest to her revealed the singer was molested as a child by a family member and that it was likely connected to her substance abuse later in life, Associated Press reports.
In Whitney, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, Houston's long-time assistant Mary Jones says the late singer was being molested by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick, also the sister of soul singer Dionne. Houston's brother Gary says he was being abused as well, between the ages of seven and nine, by a female family member.
Jones says the abuse caused Houston to question her sexuality, as it was long rumored she was in a romantic relationship with her former assistant Robyn Crawford, shortly before marrying ex-husband Bobby Brown. She also claims it played a role in her drug problems later on in life. Dee Dee, also a Grammy-nominated singer who sometimes sang background vocals for Aretha Franklin, died in 2008, but Houston's drug problems would continue to haunt her until her tragic death in 2012.
Though she never spoke publicly about the abuse, the film does show the late icon dropping hints about it in various interviews, according to Vanity Fair. After being asked what makes her angry in one press stop, she replies, "Child abuse makes me angry...I hate to see kids...it bothers me that children, who are helpless, who depend on adults for security and love, it just bothers me." Whitney was also known to bring her daughter Bobbi Kristina, who tragically died in 2015, on international tours and would encourage Jones to do the same.
In the film, Jones also says that though Houston's mother Cissy is aware of the abuse now, she refused to tell her while she was alive, saying her mother would "hurt somebody if [she] told her who it was." The film reportedly suggests Cissy was on tour when the abuse was going on. "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," said producer Simon Chinn.
Whitney hits theaters July 6.