In the upcoming documentary Whitney, her brother Gary and longtime assistant Mary Jones open up about the heartbreak she felt, years after she was allegedly molested by her older cousin Dee Dee Warwick.
“She used to say, ‘I wonder if I did something to make her think I wanted her?” recalls Jones in an emotional interview with the film’s director Kevin Macdonald, about Houston opening up to her about the abuse. But Jones would tell her not to think that way, saying, “Stop. A predator is a predator.”
Warwick, also a singer and the sister of Dionne Warwick, died in 2008. When the Houston kids were growing up she’d often babysit them in and around their Newark, New Jersey, hometown while their mother Cissy Houston traveled as a backup singer.
“[There were] four, five different families who took care of us,” Houston’s brother Gary, who claims he was also abused by Warwick, recalls of that time. And Houston once told Jones, “Mommy don’t know the things we went through.'”
By all accounts that pain remained with Houston throughout her amazing, troubled life. The “I Will Always Love You” icon traversed the heights of fame and the depths of despair. In the film, her family and friends recount that journey, including her headline-fueling marriage to Bobby Brown and long-rumored bisexuality to her struggles with mothering Bobbi Kristina and crippling cocaine addiction.
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In the end, Jones says Houston told her on Feb. 11, 2012, “I need to get my life together” and talked about wanting to “get into heaven”. Later that day she was found drowned in her hotel-room bathtub with cocaine in her system. Through it all, says Jones, “I think she was trying to find herself.”
For more on Houston’s painful family secrets and new documentary, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on stands now.