"I sing. I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free. I'm free," Whitney Houston, playing the role of Emma Anderson, belts out during one of the final scenes of the 2012 remake of the 1976 film "Sparkle."
And although it was Emma, the family matriarch of the film, singing "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" before church-goers in the movie inspired by real-life girl-group the Supremes, it is Whitney's personal resilience that resonated throughout her fifth and final feature role.
The late singer, who lives again during the film's 116 minutes, plays a mother -- once mistreated and abandoned by her significant other -- who delivers protective life lessons to her overzealous, yet talented daughters Sparkle ( Jordin Sparks), Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Delores (Tika Sumpter).
The mother-daughters dynamic that holds the film togeher is made more poignant thanks to the audience's indepth knowledge of Whitney's real-life struggles and spiritual vigor. Emma's conflict between fear and faith, and how is translates to her daughters, stands at the core fo the film -- and it's a theme that admittedly hits close to my own home.
Like many daughters, I've felt Emma's tough love and internal battle via my own mother, fearful that the pain she once felt as a young woman will take form in the next man I meet or be at the other side of the next door I open.
Since September 2006, when I told her I was moving to New York for an editorial internship, my mother not only asks when I'm moving back home, but if I left home because of her. "Was I overbearing? Was I overprotective?" she asks.
All I can (and will) always tell her is that it's her resilience that came from weathering those trials and tribulations that gave me the guts to move several states away. She wasn't isn't overbearing or overprotective. She is over-loving. She's the mother she wished she had.
After coming from Mexico to the U.S. at 19 years old and with child, my mother found her way to become a registered nurse. And between her hours-long shifts, she still finds time to email me with a simple subject line that reads "proud of you."
'Sparkle' closes with similar moment of motherly devotion. "I'm proud of you... It takes a lot of faith to believe in yourself," Emma tells Sparkle before she takes the stage to folow her life-long dream. If her words were not enough, Emma's lingering smile speaks for itself when Sparkle brings down the red drapes with an emotional performance of "One Wing."
Considering their similarly tumultuous pasts, critics will be inclined to over-analyze the connection between Whitney and her character of Emma. But it's the storyline of "Sparkle" that will touch young women today, just as the original film did in 1976. Whitney helps to give "Sparkle" new life by chanelling her personal strength to the audience. And it's a feeling that will linger with viewers long after the lights go up.