A recently-premiered documentary on the life of Whitney Houston shed light on a dark secret, alleging that the icon was sexually abused as a child by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick.
Director Kevin Macdonald included plenty of interviews with Houston’s close friends and family in Whitney, two of whom discussed the abuse claims. The singer’s half-brother, former NBA point guard Gary Garland-Houston said that both he and Houston were molested by their cousin as children. Mary Jones, the singer’s assistant, supported the allegations by noting that Houston spoke of a woman molesting her when she was young. Warwick, who died in 2008 at age 63, was the neice of Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston and the sister of popular soul singer Dionne Warwick. Dee Dee was nominated for two Grammys and sang backup for Aretha Franklin.
Macdonald told Vanity Fair that he was suspicious of Houston’s behavior when analyzing hundreds of hours of private home footage. “There was something very disturbed about her, because she was never comfortable in her own skin,” he told the publication. “She seemed kind of asexual in a strange way. She was a beautiful woman, but she was never particularly sexy. I’ve seen and done some filming with people who have suffered childhood sexual abuse, and there was just something about her manner that was reminiscent to me of that sort of shrinking.”
“Shortly after thinking that, someone did tell me off the record about being told by Whitney about being abused, and it being one of the central reasons behind her self-torture,” he continued. “It took awhile for anyone to go on record about it, and eventually the family did.”
When Jones was asked why Houston never told her mother about the allegations, the former assistant said the singer was ashamed: “I think she was ashamed…she used to say, ‘I wonder if I did something to make [Dee Dee] think I wanted her.’ I said, ‘Stop. A predator is a predator is a predator. If Cissy had known, she would have done something about it, because Cissy loves her children.’”
The film premiered at the Cannes film festival on Wednesday (May 16) and will be released in theaters across the United States and the United Kingdom on July 6.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.