Whitney Houston’s funeral brought the singer back to where it all began – the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where she performed as a child in the choir.
With tears and laughter, BeBe Winans shared memories of sitting with Houston – in her closet – preparing for her first tour. “We weren’t crowded,” he joked of the space. “It was as big as this church.”
Tyler Perry passionately shared glimpses of the Whitney he knew, revealing that during conversations with her, he would often see the sadness and “the heaviness that would come upon her.” He emphasized that through it all she always had faith in God. “She is resting, singing with the angels,” he said.
Immediately after, Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick told mourners, “You just heard from somebody that truly knew Nippy,” using the family’s nickname for Houston.
Kevin Costner, Houston’s co-star in The Bodyguard, also shared fond memories of working with the singer-turned-actress.
“A lot of leading men could have played my part, a lot of guys could have filled that role, but you Whitney, I truly believe are the only one who could have played Rachel Marron,” he said. “You weren’t just pretty, you were as beautiful as a woman could be. People didn’t just like you, they loved you.”
Before performing “Send Me An Angel,” an emotional Alicia Keys thanked Houston for being a role model to so many, saying, “she made so many beautiful young artists feel strong.”
Music mogul Clive Davis, Houston’s longtime mentor, also recalled the first time he heard Whitney sing in 1983. “You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” he said.
Davis addressed Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, telling her, “Always be proud of your mother, she loved you so very much. She defined not only pure talent, but true heart and soul as well. She will forever be looking over you and will never let go of your hand.”
When Stevie Wonder took to the piano, he told mourners, “I had a little crush on Whitney okay?” before singing one of her favorites, “Ribbon in the Sky.”
Pastor Marvin Winans, a Houston family friend, delivered her eulogy, bringing up members of the Winans family to the altar for an impromptu performance of their gospel hit “Tomorrow.” “We thank you for the life of Whitney Elizabeth “Nippy” Houston,” he said.
The nearly four-hour service concluded with a recording of Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as her casket was somberly carried out of the church.