Whitney Houston emotionally honored by Kevin Costner and Jennifer Hudson at Clive Davis gala at Beverly Hilton
Just a week before the 11th anniversary of Whitney Houston's tragic death at the Beverly Hilton, Jennifer Hudson honored the legendary singer with a performance of "Greatest Love of All" in the historic hotel's ballroom. Kevin Costner also appeared, paying tribute to his The Bodyguard costar with a touching speech.
"We were both struck by Whitney the first time we first met her," Costner said of himself and legendary record producer Clive Davis, who hosted the 2023 pre-Grammy gala with the Recording Academy on Saturday night.
Everett Collection Whitney Houston in the 1992 film 'The Bodyguard'
"Whitney would be our common ground, and from that moment we all worked as one collective... so powerful that for one moment in time the entire world seemed focused on this one country song," he continued, referencing Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You", which served as the lead single for The Bodyguard. "Whitney had become the most celebrated singer of her generation, but she was an untrained actress and it was unclear if this was something she should aspire to or even something that was good for her career. All three of us would take a huge leap."
"I needed to make the movie I was imagining," said Costner, who also served as producer on The Bodyguard. "Whitney saw it as a chance to reinvent herself. But for Clive it was a career move that had 'recipe for disaster' written all over it. I needed Clive. I needed his trust and his blessing and I needed the one thing that he wasn't used to giving up: control."
Houston died Feb. 11, 2012 in a Beverly Hilton hotel room just hours before she was slated to attend Davis' annual event. Costner got particularly emotional at the end of the speech as he spoke directly to Davis — who fostered Houston's career from the very beginning — to tell the record executive "something that I've never said to you before."
"Maybe this isn't the room for it, but I don't want to miss the moment. And it's, uh, from the heart. Neither one of us, in the end, could protect your beloved Whitney. But your fingerprints on her life are clean, my friend. You were a miracle in her life. Thank you for being her bodyguard, Clive.... Everyone in this business has a mom, but not everyone has a Clive."
In response, as he took the stage to introduce the evening's performers, Davis, 90, said he was "fully overcome" by Costner's speech: "That was just a 'wow' from me, Kevin. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Later in the evening, Jennifer Hudson took the stage to honor Houston with a performance of "Greatest Love of All." See the full performance below: