The documentary, directed by Kevin Macdonald, suggests that Houston was allegedly sexually abused as a child by Dee Dee Warwick, Houston’s cousin and the sister of soul singer Dionne Warwick.
The news comes near the end of the film, when Houston’s former longtime assistant, Mary Jones, alleges that Houston told her that she was molested as a young child by her cousin Dee Dee, the niece of Houston’s mother Cissy Houston.
Jones mentions that Houston’s alleged molestation had a lasting effect on her life and contributed to her late-life drug problems.
“It made her question her sexual preference,” she says in Whitney. Jones also says that Houston never told her mother because “I think she was ashamed.”
Jones continues: “If Cissy had known, she would have done something about it, because Cissy loves her children.”
Houston’s half-brother Gary Garland-Houston also says he was molested between the ages of seven and nine by a female family member, and says his sister was abused too.
Dee Dee Warwick, who was 18 years older than Houston, died in 2008. She was twice nominated for a Grammy Award and sang backup for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and others.
The allegations made in the documentary Whitney, which was made with the cooperation of Houston’s family, immediately cast a new light on Houston’s troubled life.
The singer 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 as contributing factors. Houston never spoke publicly about her own alleged abuse.
“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.”
Whitney, which is to be released in theatres July 7, suggests that the alleged incidents of 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.
Bobbi Kristina died in 2015. She was found unresponsive in a bathtub and died after being in a coma for six months.
Representatives for Dionne Warwick have not commented on the allegations.
—With files from the Associated Press