Whitney Unashamed of Who She Was: Sparks

The American Idol winner talks about how she lost the baby fat and what she learned from Houston.

Jordin Sparks in Sparkle (Alicia Gbur/2012 Stage 6 Films, Inc.)
Jordin Sparks in Sparkle (Alicia Gbur/2012 Stage 6 Films, Inc.)

(The Root) — Jordin Sparks wowed audiences when she won the sixth season of American Idol in 2007. Now the statuesque beauty hopes to win over more fans as she makes her big-screen debut as the title character in Sparkle — which hits theaters nationwide on Aug. 17.

Sparks, 22, stars alongside the late Whitney Houston in the remake of the 1976 cult film classic about three loving sisters (now portrayed by Sparks, Tika Sumpter as Delores “Dee” Anderson and Carmen Ejogo as Tammy “Sister” Anderson) who form a singing group. Unlike the original, which is set in 1950s Harlem, the 2012 version is set in 1960s Detroit at the height of the Motown’s popularity. However, the life lessons, triumphs and tearjerker scenes are still present. Houston, who portrayed Emma, the Anderson sisters’ mother, executive-produced the movie. The singer, who died in February at age 48, had been trying to get it on-screen for more than a decade.

Sparks’ career has been blossoming beautifully since her Idol win. She released two albums — her multiplatinum-selling studio debut, Jordin Sparks, and her 2009 follow-up, Battlefield. In addition to Sparkle, the singer-actress has already begun filming her next movie. She stars opposite Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Mackie in the George Tillman-directed indie film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete. Plus, she’s shed 50 pounds over the past 18 months.

The Root caught up with Sparks in Atlanta just before she headed to Philadelphia on what would have been Houston’s 49th birthday. She chatted about meeting Mary Wilson of the Supremes, memorable moments with Houston and her amazing weight-loss journey.

The Root: I heard you got a chance to meet and hang out with Mary Wilson of the Supremes. What was it like meeting a singer from that era, and what advice did she give you?

Jordin Sparks: I grew up listening to the Motown sound — my grandparents introduced me to that — so my amazing publicist actually [arranged for us to meet] last September. I got to sit down and have dinner and ask her what it was like in the ’60s. Did you guys get along? Were there some days when you didn’t? She talked about how it was a lot of work and the tour busses weren’t like what they are today. But she said the music was really important and it really spoke to what a lot of them were feeling.

I told her that I really didn’t know how to [channel the era for my character] since I really didn’t live [during that time]. And she was like, “All you have to do is really be yourself.” The vernacular was a little different [back then] so listening to people in Detroit and listening to some clips online of the girls speaking helped me. I think Mary’s coming to the premiere. I’m excited to be able to see her there and tell her thank you.

TR: What are your feelings about your film debut?

JS: I watch and I’m like, “I’m not as horrible as I thought I was.” I was so nervous. I was beside myself and so excited when I got the part. Then I got nervous because it’s such a huge part and a part that people love and have loved for a really long time. I really didn’t want to mess it up.