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.
I'm so proud to have been a part of this film and a part of something that Whitney's family said was one of the happiest times in her life. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive cast or a more encouraging director. It was just everything that someone could've wanted. Twenty years from now when somebody asks me what my first film was, I can say Sparkle, and that's incredible.
TR: You and your cast members got to spend time with her onset. I'm sure that will stay with you always, right?
JS: It was amazing; she was so much fun and just so giving and open. And she didn't have to be, you know. She's Whitney Houston. Somebody of that star power and stature could've easily just walked on the set, done her lines and then said, "OK, I'm going to go now." But she wanted to get to know us. She wanted to see us all shine. She wanted to be there, even on days when she didn't have scenes.
It was just a reminder to always remain humble, and you're never too big to say hello to somebody or have a conversation with someone or give someone a smile. And she also wasn't ashamed of who she was or where she came from. It was an incredible thing to get that example from her.
TR: Do you have a favorite Whitney moment?
JS: One of my favorite moments was when we were breaking for the dinner scene. I went over to a separate room where the piano was and I just sat down and was kind of in my own little world. I had my eyes closed, and then two arms reached around me and started playing this beautiful melody and singing. I turned, looked over my shoulder and there was Whitney. I can't describe that moment as anything but intimate. It was just this moment in time where I could not believe that this was happening. Whitney just wanted to be close.
TR: You've been celebrating your film debut, but another milestone is that you've been able to keep off the 50 pounds you lost over the past 18 months. Soon after your 21st birthday, you decided to lose weight. How has the journey been for you?
JS: It's definitely a day-by-day thing. It all started because I just wanted to get healthy. I got really sick and I could've potentially been hospitalized or worse. I really changed my mindset and the way I looked at food -- what I was eating, when and why I was eating it. Food is meant to be enjoyed. I would have food, then I'd go and have seconds because it tasted good, not because I needed it. So I really looked at that. I have been drinking water like it was my job. And I really upped my physical activity.
TR: How has the weight loss helped you with self-acceptance?
JS: It was all about getting healthy in the beginning. I never was like, I need to lose weight to be this skinny and I need to lose weight to look just like her. I loved myself just the way I was. Getting healthy was the start of it and then losing the weight was just a bonus. But it's been really nice. I feel good.
Aisha I. Jefferson is an Atlanta-based contributor to The Root.