Honoree remembers her onscreen daughter
Whitney Houston was just her on-screen daughter, but Starletta DuPois reacted to her death the way a real mom would.
“I screamed,” the veteran actress said Monday. “I was so shocked … I am still grieving.”
DuPois played the mother of Houston’s character, Savannah Jackson, in the 1995 film version of “Waiting to Exhale.” The duo’s telephone exchanges are among the movie’s most memorable scenes.
DuPois was slated to join Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon in a sequel to the film in February 2012 when Houston died at age 48.
“She was fighting her way back,” DuPois said of Houston, who had battled substance abuse for years. “What a sweet, sweet spirit. She was and is.”
DuPois’ return to Winston-Salem and the National Black Theatre Festival is extra special this time. After lending her support to the NBTF for more than a decade, she was honored at Monday’s Opening Night Gala with a Living Legend Award for a career that stretches back to the 1970s.
“I am overwhelmed. I am full; I am exhilarated,” the actress – whose long list of credits also includes films like “The Notebook,” “Big Momma’s House,” “Wolf” and “Friday After Next” – said about the honor.
The NBTF statue comes just months after she was honored for her body of work with the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival’s Eternity Award. The Tony Award nominee can’t exactly pin down her secret to career longevity, but she thinks her faith is a major factor.
“I could not do it without God,” she said.
DuPois also believes that she has flourished by reaching back to help up-and-coming performers. She cherishes her role as mother hen, often accepting short term artist-in-residence positions at universities to help mold burgeoning talents. This week, she was also slated to lead a Festival workshop – “The Business of the Business” – to offer up-and-comers keys to a long career.
“Any of us could be the flavor of the month, but (the goal is to be here) 30 years later,” she said.
DuPois also planned to address the pitfalls of stardom, a subject she thinks is especially relevant in the wake of the deaths of Houston and other celebrities.
“You have to be so careful about fame and fortune, because literally it can kill you,” said DuPois, who is soon slated to shoot a pilot with Victoria Rowell, another 2013 NBTF celebrity guest.