Actress Jordin Sparks, who portrays the shy young singer coming into her own in the movie "Sparkle" opening Friday, said that working with the late Whitney Houston was a time of inspiration and blessing. Sparks also said she has no doubt that Houston is in heaven.
"It was so fun to be able to just stand across from her and talk to her and spend time with her and to able to be with someone that I idolized and grew up loving and trying to sing her songs," said Sparks during a press junket in Los Angeles attended by The Christian Post earlier this month.
"Knowing all of that and being a part of it was an amazing experience. It was such a blessing to be able to work with her," said Sparks.
"Sparkle" is the story of three sisters, who each have their own dreams and ambitions, and who form a girl group as a way of capitalizing on the Motown sound sweeping the nation at the time.
Sparks, who plays "Sparkle Anderson," a somewhat innocent 19-year-old that tries her hardest to obey her Bible-believing and often strict mother (played by Houston), portrays a character that in some ways mirrors her own rise-to-the-top, American Idol winning life.
"There are a lot of parallels to the 'Sparkle' story and my story. I related to her a lot so to be able to actually put that in there because I experienced that. There was a lot of me in that character. I fell in love with the story because it is something that I had gone through," Sparks said.
When she first auditioned for the movie and then was given the part she only knew that Houston was going to be the executive producer.
"She hadn't signed on to play the mother part yet. So I got the part and was so excited. I was like, yeah, I'll get to say hi to her in the hallway. There was a lot of pressure because I did not have a lot of experience," said Sparks, who makes her acting debut in the movie.
"Then, they said Whitney has signed on to play the mom. I was like, oh my goodness … just a hundred more pounds of pressure. Now I really can't go there and be horrible."
Sparks explained that Houston and herself bonded a lot because neither actress was with family during the shooting of the movie. Houston became like her surrogate mother on the set, she said.
"I was the youngest on set and her daughter wasn't there so we just gravitated towards each other. She was always asking if I needed something and if I was okay … if I was crying in a scene and I couldn't stop she would be there rubbing my back. She was just really, really kind and very giving. She always wanted to see all of us come to the forefront … let them shine (was her attitude)," Sparks said.
"She was very encouraging … When I had to sing her song on the Billboard Awards it was like the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. All I could hear was her voice saying, 'You got this. You got this.' It was so crazy because I heard it so clear. It is amazing because she has her hand in everything we do – all the promo stuff. It's going to be a big void her not being physically there at the premier, but she will be there with her angel wings. She'll be walking that red carpet, strutting," she said.
"Sparkle" came at a perfect time for her, Sparks said. It was an opportunity for her to let her fans hear another side of her.
"With the R&B, Gospel feel that 'Sparkle' has that opens the door for my fans to be more accepting of that sound and also for me to try it," she said.
Sparks said that above all it was her own faith and the faith of other actors and filmmakers that was most encouraging on the set, and later after Houston's death.
Houston died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Feb. 11, 2012, as the result of drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use," according to the L.A. County coroner's office.
"All of us for the most part have a deep spiritual and faith-based life. Whitney had this Bible and it was falling apart. It was so amazing to see this Bible that had been used over and over again. I love the expression that when your Bible is falling apart the man isn't," she said.
"I remember seeing that and she was blasting gospel music every morning and she would walk in and say, 'How is everyone this morning? You guys good? God is good.' I think for all of us to see this, and with her passing, I think that's helped us get through it because I know where she is," Sparks said.
"I know where she is and she is so happy and she is not hurting and she is even more beautiful than she was. That has been something that has really helped me. The faith-based thing is really important for me. There are certain situations that I would not have been able to make through without the promises He makes and gave for us."