PHOTO First look at Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston in Lifetime movie

Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston Lifetime Movie

We have our first look at former America’s Next Top Model runner-up Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston in the Lifetime movie about the singer! In the photo, Yaya recreates the iconic photo used on the cover of the singer’s 1990 album Whitney. Here are side-by-side photos for comparison:

Yaya DaCosta as Whitney Houston side-by-side photos - click to enlarge

UPDATE – Click here to see the first photo of actor Arlen Escarpeta as Bobby Brown!

The Lifetime movie, which has the working title Whitney Houston (although IMDB has it listed as I Will Always Love You: The Whitney Houston Story), is directed by Whitney’s Waiting to Exhale co-star Angela Bassett and is set to debut some time in 2015. Here’s the official scoop from Lifetime:

Scheduled for a 2015 world premiere, Whitney Houston chronicles the headline-making relationship between the iconic singer, actress, producer and model, and singer, songwriter Bobby Brown — from the time they first met at the very height of their celebrity, to their courtship and tumultuous marriage. Throughout it all, difficulties followed the superstar couple while they dealt with the overwhelming rewards and consequences of the fame and fortune created by Whitney’s meteoric rise that would soon overshadow them both.

Although Yaya DaCosta got her first national exposure on America’s Next Top Model, where she finished as the Season 3 runner-up in 2003, she is now first and foremost an actress with quite the impressive resume. From her IMDB bio:

Yaya Alafia was born and raised in New York City along with her sister and two brothers. She got her first acting gig at the age of eleven when her junior high school drama teacher, Ann Willis Ratray, encouraged her to audition for educational films. She continued to perform in school shows throughout high school and college and in 2005, made her feature film debut in Take the Lead. In 2008, she made her Off-Broadway debut in “The First Breeze of Summer” at The Signature Theater, for which she garnered rave reviews and won the Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition Award for Excellence in Black Theater. She has portrayed a range of characters, from Danny Glover’s frail teenage daughter in John Sayles’ Honeydripper, to Mark Ruffalo’s voluptuous lover in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. She has been tagged one of Hollywood’s new “it girls” by many, including Lynn Hirschberg who featured her on the cover of W Magazine in September, 2010.

Yaya DaCosta photo

Director Angela Bassett talked at length about the project in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, including her decision to cast Yaya and other relative newcomers in the film:

You cast Yaya DaCosta as Whitney—and you went with a cast of newcomers for this film as opposed to more established actors. Why is that?

Because I want you to fall into the world of Whitney and Bobby. And I don’t want to stop you at the gate with maybe the image of something familiar, someone you’ve seen from something else. You’ve already got your perception of them as an actor and person, and now you’ve got to put that to the side and squint your eyes and imagine this is Whitney and Bobby, you know what I mean? (Laughs)

And listen. Let me tell you something. We sat in the casting process and it is no easy feat for an actor to come into a room, bare their soul, to open themselves up to these words, this process, and these people. It’s not like, Oh my gosh, I have six good choices for Bobby. No, you don’t, you have two. Searching for weeks and only two rise to the top. They had different qualities that are like Bobby. You’ve gotta be like, which way do you want to go? And the same with Whitney. There are maybe one and then another. But Yaya was far and above the only choice, you know.

Why did you choose Whitney Houston as your first directorial project?

I obviously had worked with Whitney and, you know, just fell in love with her as the rest of the world did. And when this opportunity was brought my way, it really was something I couldn’t say no to. I felt that if I said no and let it pass, I could imagine having a great deal of regret, you know? I wanted to tell a story about a beautiful sista, which is of course an opportunity for me to grow as a woman and as an artist in many expected and unexpected ways.

I had been looking for, hoping for, if I were to direct, a story that I felt deeply passionate about. One that I could stay up all night just thinking about, caring for and nurturing. I’ve had opportunities in the past, but nothing that just grabbed me like this did. I could only hope that the script would support my desire, and it did. It had to be grateful, respectful, honest, and all those things, because we know in her lifetime there was a great deal of pressure and scrutiny. I didn’t want this story to add to that.

Angela also reveals that Lifetime has secured the rights to five Whitney songs for the film, though she didn’t tip her hat as to which songs they are, only that “the challenge was in trying to pick which ones!” She also says this is strictly “a story about a boy and a girl who fell in love: and will not address the singer’s death.

Here is the rest of the cast, which will include actor Arlen Escarpeta as Bobby Brown:

Bobby Brown: Arlen Escarpeta
Robyn Crawford: Yolonda Ross
Cissy Houston: Suzzanne Douglas
Clive Davis: Mark Rolston
Hampton Fluker Hampton Fluker …
Aunt Bae: Saundra McClain
Sheryl Lee Ralph: Noree Victoria
John Houston: James A. Watson Jr.
Gary Houston: Tongayi Chirisa
Michael Houston: Cornelius Smith Jr.

Top photo: Jack Zeman/Lifetime Television/Entertainment Weekly

web analytics