Jordin Sparks Shares How Whitney Houston Supported Her While Filming ‘Sparkle’

As great as Whitney Houston was a vocal powerhouse, she was equally as great as an actress. The singer starred in five films before her passing, her final was in the remake of the classic musical drama Sparkle. Houston played a protective mother of three singers. Jordin Sparks starred in the film and says Houston’s supportive nature was unmatched. 

Jordin Sparks smiles while interviewing; Sparks says Whitney Houston was supportive while filming 'Sparkle'
Jordin Sparks smiles during interview | Rick Rowell/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Jordin Sparks says Whitney Houston was supportive of her in her first film role

Sparks made her film acting debut in the 2012 film as one of Houston’s character’s daughters, the title character. The film starred Sparks and her two sisters as talented yet sheltered singers of a church-going mother. They yearn for stardom, but their mother is against secular music.

While filming the movie, the American Idol alum told PEOPLE that she had “so many” great memories working alongside the “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” singer. “She started playing some amazing music, and somebody did this amazing run,” Sparks remembered. “I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that.’ She looked at me and was like, ‘You can do that. You can do that. Don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t. Don’t let anybody else tell you you can’t.'”

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She says it’s advice she’s never let go of. “I’ve carried that with me through a lot of my performances, and she’s really impacted me in that way, to know that you can impact somebody’s life without knowing them for a very long time,” she added. “I didn’t get to know her for very long, but the time I did spend with her really, really impacted me, and I’ve carried it with me since, obviously,” she noted.

When promoting the film and the role in 2012, she spoke of being a lifetime fan of Houston’s to PEOPLE. “I sang her songs into a hairbrush when I was little,” she said at the time. “Now she’s acting as my mom and scolding me. It was a dream come true.”

It was Whitney Houston’s final project before her death

Houston’s BrownHouse Productions secured the rights to a remake of the original from Warner Bros. and had Aaliyah in mind for the lead role. Aaliyah’s death in 2001 halted production indefinitely. 

Raven-Symoné was cast in the leading role in 2005 but ultimately didn’t move forward in the role. Eventually, Sparks was cast alongside Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo as the trio of sisters. Production for the film began in Oct. 2011 in Detroit and wrapped in Nov. of the same year, just three months before Houston’s death.

As much as Sparks enjoyed working with Houston, the iconic singer shared the same love for her and the other two stars who played her daughters. “They are the most warm, loving, and supportive young women that I’ve come across in a long time,” she told Clevver News in one of her final interviews. “They’re really beautiful people, and I’ve kind of become like their mother in a sense. I give mom hugs on the set. They were just perfect for this project, just absolutely perfect.”

The film was a remake of the same title from the 1970s

Sparkle is a fictional time period film set in Harlem, New York during the 1950s and 1960s. It centers on three sisters who embark on a singing career in the group. Each sister faces their own personal journey along the way that either deters them from stardom, or pushes them even further. 

Sparkle was beloved for its exploration of Harlem’s musical and social culture traced back to the Harlem Renaissance, as well as its inclusions of the Black power era. Irene Cara, Philip Michael Thomas, Lonette McKee, Dwan Smith, Mary Alice, Dorian Harewood, and Tony King starred in the film. 

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The movie was Houston’s favorite as a child, so it only made sense for her to take it on as a passion project. At the time of its release, it received negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, only earning $4 million against a $1 million budget. 

Despite its failure, the film became a cult classic amongst African-American viewers. The movie’s accompanying soundtrack was a huge hit and served as a love affair with its audience. Curtis Mayfield worked as the composer and producer of Sparkle’s songs and score.

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