The New Hope Baptist Church was filled with love on Saturday afternoon, as 1,500 family and friends joined together at Whitney Houston's childhood church in Newark, NJ to celebrate her life.
In addition to Houston's mother, Cissy, and her daughter Bobbi Kristina, several celebrities turned up to pay their respects to the late singer in the form of both tribute songs and heartfelt speeches.
Actor/director Kevin Costner told a lesson-laden story about casting the "I Will Always Love You" singer in the 1992 flick The Bodyguard, for which he revealed filming was postponed a year until Houston had wrapped her tour.
The 57-year-old actor reminisced how Houston took off the professional makeup and used her own, but the lights melted it right off during her screen test.
"I asked her why she did it, and she said I just wanted to look my best. I asked her to trust me, and she said she would," Costner said. "A half hour later she went back to do her screen test and the studio fell in love with her…Whitney, you weren't just good enough, you were great."
"To you, Bobbi Kristina, and to all those young girls who are dreaming that dream, thinking that maybe they aren't good enough, I think Whitney would tell you, guard your bodies. And guard the precious miracle of your own life. Then sing your hearts out."
Choking up and pausing as he ended his speech, he said, "Off you go Whitney, off you go. Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly Father. When you sing before him, don't you worry. You'll be good enough."
Before belting out "Send Me An Angel," Alicia Keys remembered how she and Houston would call each other the nickname "Me Ma."
"She would call you for no reason at all, but just to say 'hi,' Keys, who struggled to hold back tears, said. "She was a beautiful human being — really caring, beautiful, thoughtful."
Houston's music mentor Clive Davis added, "You wait for a voice like that a for a lifetime. You wait for a face, a presence like that for a lifetime. When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away. That's what I felt in 1983 when your daughter shattered me with her version of 'Greatest Love of All,'" he said looking at Cissy.
Ray Watson, Houston's bodyguard for 11 years who found her body in her Beverly Hills hotel room Feb.11, said "I lost a friend, a boss, a sister." He wrapped his speech by saying, "We need to respect and love entertainers," adding that entertainers give their lives so people can have enjoyment. His comments we met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Stevie Wonder opened his two-song performance with lyrics, "I want to give praise to the Father for Whitney from God's choir of love."
Tyler Perry spoke of the singer's everlasting grace. "She had a grace that kept on carrying her all the way through her life. It was the same grace that carried her home."
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