Whitney, a new documentary about legendary singer Whitney Houston, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival Thursday. The doc made stunning allegations about the early childhood of the music icon, claiming that the late star was sexually abused by Dee Dee Warwick, Houston’s cousin and the sister of singer Dionne Warwick.

Kevin Macdonald, the director of Whitney, told Indiewire that Houston’s half-brother, Gary Garland-Houston, claimed that he had been sexually abused between the ages of 7 and 9 by Dee Dee and he believed Houston was molested as well.

“He’s saying ‘I was abused by this person’ and told me, ‘I think she abused Whitney,’” Macdonald said. “Pat Houston [Gary’s wife], who’s here, told me that, yeah, Whitney had told her this but not given any details.”

According to Macdonald, two months after he spoke with Garland, Houston’s aunt and longtime assistant, Mary Jones confirmed that the singer had indeed been abused. Jones claims that the experience made Houston question her own sexuality and contributed to her drug problems.

Houston died at the age of 48 in 2012 from what was ruled an accidental drowning in a bathtub. A coroner’s report into her death cited heart disease and drug use (cocaine mainly) as contributing factors.

“We always wanted our film to be a corrective to that tabloid story,” said producer Simon Chinn. “These are specific revelations that I think will get people to a deeper understanding of who Whitney was and in many ways redeem her as a person.”

The documentary was made with the permission of Houston’s family, and the filmmaker, 50, said he decided to reach out to them about the possibility that she had been abused after watching old footage of Houston.

“There was something about her discomfort in her own skin, something about the way she presents or hides herself, her lack of overt sexuality,” Macdonald told the publication. “She’s this beautiful woman but she’s very closed in her demeanor.”

“That led somebody to tell me, ‘Whitney told me she was abused,’ but they wouldn’t go on camera,” said Macdonald. The filmmaker also reached out to Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown about the abuse.

“He claims not to know,” he told Indiewire. “I wouldn’t be surprised if [Houston] didn’t tell him. When you hear Mary Jones talking about it at the end, the shame that Whitney had about it, the fact that she couldn’t talk to her own mother about it… I can’t imagine she would have gone there, but this is all supposition.”

Dee Dee Warwick was the niece of Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston. The Warwick sisters sometimes sang in Cissy’s gospel group, the Drinkard Singers. The alleged abuse took place while Cissy Houston was touring. Houston, who had a daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, with Bobby Brown, is said to have insisted on taking Bobbi on tour with her.

Dee Dee Warwick, who was 18 years older than Houston, died in 2008.


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