Despite being released in 2012, Sparkle has been delayed in development hell for years. Based on the 1976 film of the same name, Whitney Houston and her producing partner Debra Martin Chase acquired the rights to “Sparkle” under their BrownHouse Productions banner in the 1990s (via Vanity Fair). Houston had considered Aaliyah for the title role, but the singer died in a plane crash in 2001. “That was it [Aaliyah’s] movie, when we brought it to her, she was so excited about it and she wanted it so badly to do it,” Houston said (via Vibe). “She was our shine.”
Sparkle finally came to fruition in 2012. Set in the 1960s, the film stars Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter as three sisters who start a girl group in Detroit. Houston plays her strict church mother, Emma, who once had aspirations as a singer of her own. Some fans and critics saw Sparkle as a comeback for Houston at a time of increasing personal and legal troubles. “It’s not like a comeback for me,” the actor told Collider in 2012. “It’s just innate, it’s natural.” She added, “It’s not my fault. It’s something that God just said, ‘This is what you do.’ It’s in me.”
Unfortunately, Houston died that same year, and the film was released posthumously a few months after her death. Indeed, Houston’s death casts a chilling shadow over the film, especially when her character asks, “Wasn’t my life enough cautionary tale for you?” Despite the singer’s star power, the film received mediocre reviews.
As fans continue to mourn Houston’s loss more than 10 years later, other cinematic artifacts, like last year’s biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” remain a compelling reminder of her legacy.