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Whitney Houston Funeral; Singer's Hometown To Reclaim Legend

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NEKESA MUMBI MOODY   02/17/12 07:12 PM ET  AP

NEWARK, N.J. — Although Whitney Houston was one of the most famous people in the world, she never felt comfortable in the spotlight.

Houston often spoke about feeling uneasy in her role as a superstar. Even as she prepared to stage a comeback nearly three years ago, she yearned to shed the celebrity-centered, tabloid glare that came with her fame.

"I am not geared for it. It goes along with the territory," she told The Associated Press in a 2009 interview. "I just want to be recognized for my music and for what it does and how it inspires people and how it makes people feel as opposed to talking about Whitney all the time kind of thing. That's all done. It's passed, and I would just like to be recognized for my music."

Houston will be recognized for that, and for much more, on Saturday, when her funeral is held at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, where she sang with the choir as a young girl. While she died last weekend in tony Beverly Hills, Calif., amid a media and celebrity crush ahead of her mentor Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards party, her funeral will be a chance to reclaim Whitney Houston the person, instead of the icon.

The church, which seats about 300 people, will be filled with friends, family members and some of her famous connections. Kevin Costner, her co-star in the movie blockbuster "The Bodyguard," is scheduled to speak, as is Davis, the music mogul responsible for launching and guiding her career. Her cousin and fellow singer, Dionne Warwick, will be on the program, as will friends including Alicia Keys, Tyler Perry and gospel stars Donnie McClurklin, Kim Burrell and Cece Winans.

Ray J, who spent time with Houston in her last days, also will be in attendance. In a statement released Friday, he expressed his devastation over her loss and referred to her by her nickname, Nippy.

"Nippy, I miss you so much!" he said.

Aretha Franklin also remembered Houston as Nippy and recalled how Houston used to refer to her as Aunt Ree.

"Hard to believe," Franklin wrote in an email on Thursday, as she prepared to sing at the funeral for the girl she watched growing up.

Houston became near equals with Franklin in terms of fame: Houston is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, and her fame stretched beyond music, into movies as well. But she never embraced her celebrity and turned to drugs as a way to escape. Her career stalled as her addiction grew more serious, tarnishing her image as America's graceful pop queen.

In another 2009 interview, this time with Oprah Winfrey, Houston talked about how bad her addiction had gotten. She said her mother, Cissy Houston, arrived with a court order, prepared to force her into getting help.

"She said, `I'm not losing you to this world. I'm not losing you to Satan!'" Whitney Houston recalled. "`I want my daughter back.'"

It's unclear if drugs caused her death. Houston was found in a bathtub, underwater, by a member of her staff at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It will take weeks before toxicology results determine what medications and quantities, if any, were in Houston's system at the time of her death.

But despite her mother's efforts, Houston indeed was lost, at the age of 48. She had appeared to be set for another comeback: She had a new movie, "Sparkle," due out this summer and was working on other projects, including a sequel to "Waiting to Exhale."

After the funeral, Houston is scheduled to be buried beside her father, John Russell Houston, at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, near where she grew up.

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  • Singers Whitney Houston (L) and Dionne W

    Singers Whitney Houston (L) and Dionne Warwick perform onstage during the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala & Salute to Industry Icons, with Clive Davis Honoring David Geffen at the Beverly Hilton on February 12, 2011. The event, on the eve of the 53rd Annual GRAMMY, honored Geffen Records founder and DreamWorks SKG co-founder David Geffen who was presented with the President's Merit Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the music industry and the impact his efforts have had on music and the business of music. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Clive Davis And The Recording Academy's 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen - Inside

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 12: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Whitney Houston attends the 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute To Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen at Beverly Hilton on February 12, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images For The Recording Academy)

  • Singer Whitney Houston performs onstage

    Singer Whitney Houston performs onstage during the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala & Salute to Industry Icons, with Clive Davis Honoring David Geffen at the Beverly Hilton on February 12, 2011. The event, on the eve of the 53rd Annual GRAMMY, honored Geffen Records founder and DreamWorks SKG co-founder David Geffen who was presented with the President's Merit Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the music industry and the impact his efforts have had on music and the business of music. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Whitney Houston waves to the crowd at the 36th Ann

    NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Whitney Houston waves to the crowd at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards in New York 01 March 1994 after she was honored for Record of the Year, 'I'll Always Love You,' and Album of the Year, the soundtrack from the film 'The Bodyguard.' At rear is her producer David Foster, who shared the honors with her. (Photo credit should read POOL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1994 WORLD CUP FINAL

    17 JUL 1994 : WHITNEY HOUSTON SINGS DURING THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF THE WORLD CUP BEFORE THE ITALY V BRAZIL 1994 WORLD CUP FINAL AT THE ROSE BOWL STADIUM IN PASADENA CALIFORNIA. Mandatory Credit: Billy Stickland/ALLSPORT

  • (FILES) US pop star and entertainer Mich

    (FILES) US pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson (2R) gathers with Elizabeth Taylor (L), Liza Minnelli (2L) and Whitney Houston (R) at the United Nego College Fund dinner at a New York hotel March 10, 1988 in New York. Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 after suffering a cardiac arrest, sending shockwaves sweeping across the world and tributes pouring in on June 26 for the tortured music icon revered as the 'King of Pop.' AFP PHOTO/Mark CARDWELL (Photo credit should read MARK CARDWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2/27/98 Los Angeles, CA. Whitney Houston at the 12th Annual Soul Train Music Awards. She recieved th

    2/27/98 Los Angeles, CA. Whitney Houston at the 12th Annual Soul Train Music Awards. She recieved the Quincy Jones Award for 'Outstanding Career Achievement' in the field of entertainment.

  • 1999 VH1 Divas Live

    Whitney Houston performs during the VH1 DIVAS LIVE '99 at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Tuesday, April 13. Other performers include Brandy, Tina Turner, and Cher, with a special performance by Elton John. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.

  • Singers Mariah Carey (L) and Whitney Houston perfo

    LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Singers Mariah Carey (L) and Whitney Houston perform 'When You Believe' during the 71st Academy Awards 21 March 1999 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 42nd Annual Grammy Awards - Pressroom

    Whitney Houston at the 2000 Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles, CA on Febuary 23, 2000 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect

  • (FILES): This 23 February 2000 file phot

    LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: (FILES): This 23 February 2000 file photo shows US pop diva Whitney Houston performing at the 42d Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Houston has checked into a drug rehabilitation clinic, her publicist said 16 March 2004, providing a new twist in her long battle with drug addiction. Houston, 40, has 'chosen to enter a facility for rehabilitation,' her publicist said in a terse statement that provided no further details of the type or location of the treatment, but which contained a message for her fans. 'She thanks everyone for their support and prayers,' the statement said. AFP PHOTO / FILES / Hector MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Clive Davis And The Recording Academy's 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen - Inside

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 12: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Singer Whitney Houston attends the 2011 Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute To Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen at Beverly Hilton on February 12, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images For The Recording Academy)

  • Whitney Houston In Concert

    BERLIN - MAY 12: US-American singer Whitney Houston performs live during a concert at the O2 World on May 12, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The concert is part of the 2010 Nothing But Love tour to promote the album I Look To You. (Photo by Jakubaszek/Getty Images)

  • Whitney Houston Performs In Milan

    MILAN, ITALY - MAY 03: Whitney Houston performs at Mediolanum Forum on May 3, 2010 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

  • 2010 BET Honors - Show

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 16: Whitney Houston accepts the BET Honor for entertainment during the 2010 BET Honors at the Warner Theatre on January 16, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

  • 17th Mercedes-Benz Carousel of Hope Ball - Arrivals

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 28: Producer Clive Davis (L) and singer Whitney Houston arrive at the 17th Annual Mercedes-Benz Carousel of Hope Ball at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

  • 2009 GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons: Clive Davis - Show

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Singer Whitney Houston performs at the 2009 GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons honoring Clive Davis at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • World Music Awards 2004 - Show

    LAS VEGAS, NV ? SEPTEMBER 15: Singer Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards at the Thomas and Mack Center on September 15, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

  • US singer Whitney Houston attends in a w

    US singer Whitney Houston attends in a welcoming ceremony as a guest of honor for the polygamous Black Hebrew sect 30 May 2003 in the southern Israeli town of Dimona. Houston is in Israel for a week to make a recording with the sect. AFP PHOTO/Tal COHEN ISRAEL OUT (Photo credit should read TAL COHEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Whitney Houston

    DECATUR, GA - AUGUST 27: Singer Whitney Houston leaves the DeKalb County Courthouse after a probation violation hearing for her husband, singer Bobby Brown on August 27, 2003 in Decatur, Georgia. Brown was sentenced to 14 days in jail followed by 60 days of house arrest for violating conditions of his probation, stemming from 1996 DUI charges. (Photo by Frank Mullen/Getty Images)

  • VH1 Divas Duets Post Concert Party

    LAS VEGAS - MAY 22: Actresses (L-R) Tia and Tamara Mowry with singer Whitney Houston attend the VH1 Divas Duets post concert party to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 22, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • Singer Whitney Houston Visits Israel

    JERUSALEM - MAY 27: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (R) welcomes singer Whitney Houston (L) and her husband/singer, Bobby Brown (C), at the prime minister's residence May 27, 2003 in Jerusalem, Israel. Houston is on a private tour of Israel. (Photo by Quique Kierszenbaum/Getty Images)

  • Bobby Brown Appears In Court

    DECATUR, GA - NOVEMBER 25: Singer/actress Whitney Houston (L) smiles at her husband, singer Bobby Brown, during a court hearing November 25, 2002 in Dekalb County State Court in Decatur, Georgia. Brown was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for a DUI arrest in 1996. Judge Wayne Purdom set a trial of January 21, 2003. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Michael Jackson Concert - Day 1

    Whitney Houston performing on the Michael Jackson '30th Anniversary Celebration, The Solo Years' concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, Friday, Sept. 7, 2001. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.


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Filed by Katelyn Mullen  |