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Funeral reflects Whitney Houston's journey

19 February 12 00:22
Hearse transfers Whitney Houston's body to church in Newark, 18 Feb
By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News, Newark

Whitney Houston's fans got as close as they could to the New Hope baptist church in Newark, surveying the scene.

"I wouldn't be anywhere else," said Eric, " her music helped me through my bad times."

Others nodded in agreement - I have struggled with addiction, just like she did, and she gave me strength, said a woman whose son held a placard reading "Whitney we will always love you".

Outside the church, the singer's frailties were treasured by her fans just as much as her vibrant voice.

In this bleak neighborhood of Newark, Whitney Houston's rise from New Jersey choir girl to pop princess is a source of great pride - her struggles and vulnerabilities were something people could relate to.

Inside the church, the emphasis was on celebrating Whitney Houston's phenomenal achievements. The gospel choir set a celebratory rather than sombre note. This was where she sang as a child - her family called this her coming home service.

As in life, so there were tensions in death - Houston's estranged husband Bobby Brown, blamed by many fans for her descent into drug addiction, left the service early.

Shared backgrounds

The congregation reflected Whitney Houston's journey from Newark to Hollywood. The actor Kevin Costner, who starred with her in The Bodyguard, alluded to the unspoken reservations studio executives had about casting a black woman with him as the white lead.

He paid tribute to their shared backgrounds in the baptist church, and referred to the lack of self-confidence which caused Whitney Houston to stumble. If Whitney were here, I'd tell her she was great, said the actor.

Stars from the music world paid homage to their colleague - Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys sang heartfelt songs, with Keys praising the woman who mentored her.

The service closed on an emotional note, with many weeping as Whitney Houston's anthem, I will always love you, accompanied the coffin out of the church. Her voice in all its glory, at the height of her powers, echoed around the church - family, friends and fans reflected on a talented, turbulent life.

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