Sparks on Redbook. (Giles Bensimon)
Houston, who was found unconscious in her bathtub on February 11 after ingesting a cocktail of drugs and alcohol, not only played Sparks' mother in the film — about three sisters who want to make it big as Motown-era singers — but she also acted like one to the young star. "She took on the mother role because my parents weren't there [during film production]," Sparks, 22, explains of Houston, who plays Emma, a failed singer who doesn't want her daughters to meet the same fate. "She was always asking: Did I feel comfortable? Did I need anything?"
Sparks is, well, sparkling. (Giles Bensimon)
And although her struggle with substance abuse was something that Houston kept private in her later years (she had maintained she was sober leading up to her death), it's a topic she would have been open about had she lived to promote "Sparkle," her first acting or singing gig since a disastrous 2010 world tour. "There are certainly some themes in the movie that everyone would have wanted to ask Whitney about like, 'Did you relate your own life to this part,' which I'm sure she would have answered honestly," says Sparks. "The cool thing about Whitney was that she was not scared to talk about or confront the things she had gone through."
She's also enjoying her newfound love life with fellow pop star Jason Derulo, who she has been dating for the past year. "We both went through things that were tragic, and that brought us even closer together," Sparks says of her 23-year-old beau, who broke his neck during a rehearsal in January. "He had a near-death experience, and I lost someone. Priorities get in line when stuff like that happens. Family is what matters — and being with the people you love."
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