Belfast Telegraph

Kevin Costner emotional at Whitney funeral

Kevin Costner has choked back tears while paying tribute to Whitney Houston at her funeral.

The singer died aged 48 last weekend. Her funeral is currently taking place at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, where Whitney sang in a gospel choir as a child.

Kevin appeared alongside Whitney in 1992 movie The Bodyguard and discussed their time on set during his speech. He admitted people were unsure about casting her as she didn't have film experience, drawing laughs as he said he fought for her.

"I thought she was the perfect choice but the red flags came out immediately," he said. "I was reminded that this would be her first acting role. You could also think about another singer, was the suggestion - maybe somebody white. Nobody ever said it out loud, but it was a fair question

"I told everyone that I had taken notice that Whitney was black. The only problem was that I thought she was perfect for what we were trying to do."

Kevin's speech lasted 20 minutes and he also explained she feared she wasn't good enough for the movie role, which she made famous with her rendition of I Will Always Love You.

"Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you, you weren't just good enough, you were great," he said.

"You weren't just pretty, you were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn't just like you Whitney, they loved you.

"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."

The funeral is being attended by a host of big name stars, among them Mariah Carey, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Gayle King and Vivica A. Fox. Whitney's mother Cissy Houston and 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina are there.

There was speculation Whitney's ex-husband Bobby Brown might not attend, but he was seen at the church. However, he left soon after the service began. While some reports suggest he paid his respects but left as his entourage wasn't allowed into church, it's also been claimed he never actually made it into the service.

Pastor Joe Carter is leading the service and took time to remind the mourners why they were there as it started. "We're here today with hearts broken, but with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston," he said.

The singer's cousin Dionne Warwick invited speakers and singers on stage, among them Tyler Perry who spoke of the "grace" that "carried" Whitney.

Alicia Keys performed, with Dionne stating Whitney had always raved about her talent. The young star was emotional as she spoke of her friendship with Whitney and had to be handed tissues as she collected herself.

Whitney's mentor Clive Davis has also spoken about the star.

In the days running up to the service it was reported that her godmother Aretha Franklin would sing there. However, she was forced to pull out at the last minute after suffering leg spasms.

"Regretfully, I am so sorry that I was unable to be with you at Whitney's service today," she said in a statement reported by People.

"I had every intention of being there. But unfortunately I had terrible leg spasms...

"My heart goes out to my dear friend Cissy, Dionne, Bobbi Kristina and the rest of the family. May God keep them all. - Aretha & the Franklin Family."

Fans and celebrities have also paid tribute to Whitney on Twitter, among them Rihanna.

She has been rehearsing in London and told fans she is planning to honour the late singer by playing her tunes as loud as possible.

"Can't wait to get to my room and put #DearWhitney on full blast!!!!" she wrote.

"#DearWhitney your Legend, your spirit and your music will live with us for EVER!!! Impossible to forget you, you were the greatest (sic)!"

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