Talking about the late Whitney Houston could have triggered an emotional reaction for friendly Jordin Sparks, who skipped out on print interviews Tuesday during the Cinema Society screening of Sparkle sponsored by Circa and Alice & Olivia and held at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in NYC.
After all, the Grammy-winning superstar passed away in February, just three months after they shot the remake of the drama about a 1960s girl group. It was Whitney's final film.
Instead, according to a source, it was the American Idol winner's shoes. “Her feet were killing her,” the insider says.
For Tika Sumpter, who plays Sparkle (Jordin)’s spotlight-shunning sister Delores, her choice in fashion reflected the title.
“I just wanted to sparkle a little bit,” the Bill Blass-clad starlet says with a laugh.
What did she learn from Whitney?
‘You are never too big to be humble,” she tells me. “She was humble. At the table read the first day, everybody was like ‘oh my God, Whitney Houston’s coming.’ She came through the door, and a star is a star is a star. She walked in, sat at the table – I was sitting next to her, my leg was shaking underneath. She made it easy for everybody. She made us feel like a family from the very beginning. She wanted to be there. When she wasn’t even supposed to be on set, she was there for us.”
According to producer Debra Martin Chase, Whitney was no diva.
“Whitney spent a lot of time giving advice to the younger actors in this movie. Really genuine, motherly, nurturing advice. We had such a great family. We all bonded, we all support each other and look out for each other, and she loved it. She was motherly, she loved the role, she took it very seriously, and that transcended into every day life.”
What kind of career advice did she give the ladies?
“You can do anything you want to do,” Tika remembers. “You have to be willing to work hard for it. It’s not a microwave success. Do you want to have a long career, or do you want to have fifteen minutes of fame? It depends on what you want to do. If you want to be like Whitney and have a long career, if you work hard for it, have talent, and really work on and nourish that talent. You can be the best. She was so present.”
Not only did Whitney question “What’s wrong? What do we need to do to make this better for you?” when Tika struggled with the script, but she was also there for Jordin.
“At one point, there was a question about Jordin’s dress,” producer Debra says. “it was just an aesthetic issue of ‘was that the right dress?’ I probably did not handle it in the best way because it was late at night and I apologized afterwards. Whitney brought her in the corner and was just like ‘it’s OK, it’s not about you, it’s a business decision.’ Basically, what I should’ve done. But she cared. We all cared. We loved each other.”
Luckily, Jordin’s night improved after she sat through the film.
During the Alize Coco sponsored afterparty held at The Yard inside the Soho Grand Hotel, Jordin hugged her new BFFs, the Fierce Five (minus Gabby Douglas). Turns out, she met the Olympians that morning at a Today show appearance!
While the always-aspiring Tika took in career advice from Broadway star Montego Glover, revelers whispered about Russell Simmons’ date. Her dress was completely see-through! Last to leave? Gabourey Sidibe, who closed the party down with a group of five gal pals.
Sparkle hits theaters Friday.