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Ryan Paul Simmons to pay respect at Whitney Houston's funeral with a portrait but decides against
Rumor has it world-renowned artist Ryan Paul Simmons was expected to present a portrait of a young Houston during the funeral service held today in Newark, NJ however, the artist decided against the unveiling.
By: The New York City Buzz
Her daughter Bobbi Kristina is at New Hope Baptist Church, with many celebrities also in attendance.
Amongst the attendees, world-renowned artist Ryan Paul Simmons was expected to present a portrait of a young Houston during the funeral service however, the artist decided against the unveiling. "When I entered the church the spirt in the room was powerful enough to move mountains. I did not want to disturb that energy. Whitney was with us all." Says Simmons but refused to comment any further. Sources tell us Simmons will unveil the painting privately with the family at a later date.
Stevie Wonder and Kevin Costner are among the celebrities paying tribute in person. Security is tight, with fans kept away - although the service is being streamed live on the internet.
Houston, 48, was found dead in a hotel in Los Angeles a week ago.
Officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests that will help them ascertain how she died.
The singer's career took her from this deprived New Jersey neighbourhood to Hollywood and the congregation reflects that journey. Gospel singers are mixing with famous names like Stevie Wonder and Kevin Costner.
Tight security has not deterred the fans who want to see the scene outside the church for themselves. They have been reflecting on Houston's extraordinary talent and her turbulent life.
The family are focusing on paying tribute to the woman who was one of the best-selling female recording artists ever.
Police cordoned off streets surrounding the New Hope Baptist Church, with pockets of fans gathered outside the perimeter.
A golden hearse was used to transfer Houston's coffin from a nearby funeral home to the church.
The coffin, draped with flowers, was escorted into church as a choir, dressed all in white, sang quietly: "Whitney, Whitney, Whitney."
The church is where a young Houston sang in a gospel choir run by her mother.
Actor Kevin Costner, who starred opposite Houston in The Bodyguard, paid tribute to what he called the "sweet miracle" of her life.
"Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began," he said and urged the nation to "dry our tears, suspend our sorrow and perhaps our anger".
He spoke about how they built a friendship, despite their obvious differences, exchanging stories about their childhood and growing up in a Baptist church community.
Stevie Wonder paid tribute to Houston by singing Love's in Need of Love Today. Alicia Keys performed Send me an Angel.
Fans of Whitney Houston in her hometown of Newark paid tribute to her musical legacy
Aretha Franklin was also due to sing at the service, but the Houston family said she would not be able to attend as she was unwell.
There were also contributions from Clive Davis, her musical mentor, and Houston's cousin Dionne Warwick.
Houston will later be buried beside her father, John Russell Houston, at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.
A number of Houston's relatives attended a private viewing service at the funeral home on Friday night amid tight security.
Houston was one of the world's leading musical artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, selling 170 million records worldwide.
Sales of her records have soared since her death was announced last Saturday.