It was the first step in what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest comebacks ever.
And while there were dozens of huge stars at this weekend’s annual Carousel of Hope ball, there was only one Whitney.
Looking healthy, curvy and strong, Whitney Houston was flawless as she made her return to the spotlight in old Hollywood glamour, donning blonde locks and an asymmetrical black Armani gown.
On the arm of the man who discovered her, music mogul and Brass Ring Award honoree, Clive Davis, Whitney shined at the gala, benefiting the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Disabilities.
“To my dear friend Whitney, to have you here tonight…,” Clive said drawing applause from the crowd. “We all know that the best singer in the world today is Whitney Houston.”
While on the red carpet, Clive talked to Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson the status of the highly anticipated Whitney comeback.
“We’re working hard. We’re looking for material and we’ve just gotten a beautiful song from R. Kelly,” Clive revealed. “So we’re on our way.”
“So this is something you don’t want to rush? You’ve got to pick the exact song,” Shaun noted.
“Oh you’ve got to be on. You in effect give Whitney an album and you let her do what she does better than anyone,” Clive said.
Along with Clive, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars also came out to support Whitney.
“I think the public is going to welcome Whitney back with open arms,” fellow music legend Barry Manilow said.
“I’m of course a fan and a big fan of comebacks,” laughed Teri Hatcher.
And Barry and Teri weren’t the only ones! A sparkling Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields, Paris Hilton and Hilary Duff (who unveiled her new dark locks) all came out to embrace Whitney’s return.
“American Idol” darling Katharine McPhee, who was stunning in a silky Dina Barell dress, brought along her 41-year-old boyfriend Nick Cokas. And Katharine performed a surprise number for Whitney.
“It was on the D.L.,” Katharine told Shaun. “I was supposed to sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ but we actually took a little bit of a turn because now that we found out Whitney’s coming tonight, Clive wants me to do something for her.”
“I have butterflies in my stomach,” Katharine added.
“What do you think you’d say to her if you get the chance after the show?” asked Shaun.
“I’d say, ‘Whitney, nobody will ever be as good as you. But I’m gonna try,” McPhee smiled.
Inside the show, McPhee nailed it singing her heart out to Whitney’s classic “I Have Nothing.”
Whitney, who watched from the audience, was blown away, telling an elated McPhee afterwards how proud she was of her.
And the stars were proud of Whitney, offering their well wishes. At Whitney’s table were Halle Berry (who sat with Whitney the whole night), a beaming Rita Wilson and even Naomi Campbell, who made a much lower-key return to Hollywood, just days after the alleged attack on her drug counselor.
Houston filed divorce papers in Orange County Superior Court two weeks ago, a month after filing for legal separation from Brown.
In the separation papers, the pop singer asked for custody of the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and that Brown, 37, be allowed visitation rights.
The couple wed in 1992, with Houston at the height of her fame as a Grammy-winning superstar known for hits such as “I Will Always Love You.”
During their marriage, Brown was arrested for drugs and alcohol, and Houston entered drug rehabilitation programs twice.