For "American Idol"-winner-turned-Broadway-star Jordin Sparks, the move to the big screen for the upcoming feature film "Sparkle" marked more than a new phase in her career. It also served as an opportunity to meet and work with her own idol, Whitney Houston.
During a Tuesday morning appearance on TODAY, Sparks talked about what she learned from the late legend, and what Houston left behind.
"It was incredible," the 22-year-old said of the experience. "Just taking out of it the acting side, as a singer I grew up listening to her music and idolizing her so, that's intimidating and really fun at the same time. And she made it so comfortable. … She's always delivered in her on-screen performances, so for me, I was just like, 'What can I learn.' I was just this sponge soaking up everything she was doing -- little nuances, how she would change things. She was the consummate professional. … As soon as they yelled, 'Action!' she was just (her 'Sparkle' character) Emma ... I'd go, 'Oh, my gosh. This is Whitney!' Then I'd go, 'Is she really mad at me right now?' She was so great at it."
After getting to know the woman she'd long admired, Sparks was rocked by the singer's unexpected death.
"For me it's crazy. I only got to know her for 2 months," she recalled. "It was an intense two months. You spend that much time with somebody, and you do get very close. I was devastated -- shell shocked rather. For me to feel that way, I can't imagine how her family and people who've known her for years have felt. I was so completely devastated that they must be still just reeling from it. It still comes in waves."
Three sisters set out to form a girl singing group in the 1960's, and quickly come to the attention of Motown record executives, but their success threatens their tight-knit family. Opens Aug. 17.
But beyond the grief, Sparks sees one bright note in what Houston left behind.
"What better gift for her to leave all of her fans than this amazing performance that she does (in 'Sparkle)."
"Sparkle" opens in theaters nationwide Aug. 17.
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