The late Whitney Houston’s funeral on Saturday, February 18 was jam-packed with celebrities as the world watched while “The Voice” received a proper send off. Held at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, the star-studded ceremony included guests like Mary J. Blige, Ray J, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey and much more.
There were 1,500 invitations for the funeral, which also included key people like Kevin Costner, NJ governor Chris Christie and Diane Sawyer.
The service kicked off with a scripture from Rev. Joe A. Carter, followed with a performance from Rev. Donnie McClurkin backed up by a choir. McClurkin also returned to the podium shortly after to share some funny moments with Houston before singing, “I miss you.”
Director/actor Tyler Perry paid his respect to his latest friend insisting, “There are two constants about Whitney that I know. There was a grace and caring. …Nothing separates her from the love of God. …What I know about her is that she loves her God. … God bless you Whitney, we love you so much.”
Bishop T.D. Jakes preached about death and concluded with, “Love will last forever, for God is love.” Rev. Kim Burrell later sang.
Houston’s long time friend and “Bodyguard” co-star Kevin Costner spoke during the service. “This feels right,” said Costner, adding how he was so honored for the opportunity to share a word about the late singer.
“Your mother and I had a lot in common,” Kevin told Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina and the crowd at the same time. “I know in this moment they will think ‘Really?’ She’s a girl I’m a boy, she’s black and I’m white. We both grew up in a Baptist church. …It was easy for us to laugh, the church was our bond.”
After sharing some past moments, Kevin recalled the “Bodyguard” days. “I was reminded that this was her first acting role,” he said. “Nobody ever said it out loud, but it was a fair question. Maybe a more experienced actress would do it better. …The biggest pop star in the world didn’t think she was good enough. …But gee were we lucky to have her.”
Kevin then sent a message for Whitney, “Whitney if you could hear me now, you weren’t just good enough, you were great. People just don’t like you Whitney, they love you.” He broke down and had to compose himself for a while after saying, “Off you go Whitney, off you go.”
Houston’s mentor and friend Clive Davis took to the podium and touched on how a voice like Whitney’s will be remembered for a lifetime.
Both Stevie Wonder and Alicia keys paid tribute to the “I Look to You” singer in song. Keys filled in for Aretha Franklin, who could not make it to the funeral due to illness.
“It’s such an emotional moment, I want to stop and thank God to just allow me to be in life in the same time as Whitney,” Wonder said. “To all the family, I want you to know… throughout her career we love her so much.” He also joked that in some imagination, he had a crush on her.
The performance was followed by a speech from Whitney’s sister-in-law and former manager, Patricia Houston, who represented the family. “Today we as family celebrate the life of our daughter, sister and friend. …A life sometime misunderstood, even by herself,” Patricia said.
R. Kelly also took the stage, performing Whitney’s 2009 single “I Look to You,” which he wrote and produced. Whitney’s cousin Dionne Warwick, who has been the funeral’s host, shared a few words of her own.
Also in attendance were her mother Cissy Houston and her ex-husband Bobby Brown.
Brown Left the ceremony early due to issues with his 9 people entourage, which included his daughters Landon and LaPrincia. Brown later released a statement saying he loved his ex-wife and he didn’t want to disrupt her service.
“My children and I were invited to the funeral of my ex-wife Whitney Houston. We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions,” said Brown in a statement. “I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move. Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi-Kristina. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene. My children are completely distraught over the events. This was a day to honor Whitney. I doubt Whitney would have wanted this to occur. I will continue to pay my respects to my ex-wife the best way I know how.”
Fans around the world were able to watch from their homes.
Rest in Peace Whitney Houston.