Whitney Houston ‘Best Lip-Syncer’, 1997 ‘Cinderella’ Director Says

There’s no denying the late Whitney Houston’s talents as a singer. But as it turns out she was really good at lip-syncing too. According to the director of the 1997 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Houston gave the most convincing lip-synced performance he’s ever seen. 

Whitney Houston produced and starred in the movie

Whitney Houston at the 2001 Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards
Whitney Houston at the 2001 Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards | Scott Gries/ImageDirect

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Houston served as an executive producer on Cinderella in 1997. The Grammy Award winner didn’t initially plan on having a significant role in the film, or any role for that matter. 

All that changed with Brandy Norwood. Then a teen starring on Moesha, she agreed to play Cinderella on one condition: if Houston, her real-life idol, took on the role of her Fairy Godmother. 

According to Shondaland’s oral history of Cinderella, Houston had to film all of her Fairy Godmother scenes in four days. Challenging at times all of the scenes got done. 

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‘Cinderella’ couldn’t afford to have her in the last scene

The last scene in the movie, the wedding scene, was shot on the last day of filming. But there was a problem. Cinderella ran out of money and the studio refused to supply the funds. 

This also meant there was no way to film Houston during the scene in which she had a key role. She sang “There’s Music in You,” wrapping up the movie. To work around it, the production team got creative. 

“We had to throw her against a green screen,” Neil Meron, one of the movie’s producers, said. “That was a major hiccup. It always comes down to money. We couldn’t get the overtime. We joked that we had to use Whitney as her own visual effect.”

The setback turned out to be not so bad. Houston, as the director later said, gave a lifelike performance when she lip-synced the song. 

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Whitney Houston impressed the director with her lip-syncing

Robert Iscove, the director of Cinderella, recalled the incredible moment when he watched Houston lip-sync her “There’s Music in You” performance in front of a green screen.

She did such a convincing job, Iscove described her as “the best lip-syncer of anyone I’ve ever met.”

Whitney Houston performs at the 2004 World Music Awards
Whitney Houston performs at the 2004 World Music Awards | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“When we green screened that, I looked at her as she was mouthing along with the track,” he said. “No sound was coming out, but she had full bravado in her throat. How she could make those muscles move like that and dead-on lip-sync at the same time … it was just absolutely brilliant.”

“Any singer will tell you how hard that is, but she was doing it,” he added.

ABC aired Cinderella on Nov. 2, 1997, and an estimated 60 million viewers tuned in. More than 20 years later it’s popularity hasn’t wavered. In fact, ever since Disney+ debuted in 2019, fans have wondered why they can’t stream Houston’s Cinderella.

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