The National Enquirer has published a photo of Whitney Houston lying in an open casket on the cover of this week's issue, unleashing new questions about how the photo was obtained and whether the supermarket tabloid has finally gone too far.
The photo shows Houston lying in a casket with a cream-colored lining highlighted with the late pop diva's little-known nickname -- "Nippy" -- and music symbols. Houston is the picture of elegance at rest. She is wearing what appears to be a deep purple dress, her trademark smoky eye makeup and a subtle dash of pink on her lips as well as sparkly earrings. Her hair is pulled back.
The headline and cover text provide a marked contrast. "Whitney: The Last Photo!" the dominant headline screams. It's followed by other headlines promising to take readers inside her private viewing, plus claims that she was buried in $500,000 worth of jewelry, was wearing her favorite purple dress and was laid to rest with gold slippers on her feet.
Public outrage over the publication of the photo is growing even as the circumstances surrounding the image remain uncertain. Chief among the questions being asked: Was the snapshot authorized by anyone related to Houston?
That seems doubtful, given the great lengths the family took to keep the prying eyes of the media at bay during the private memorial service held Friday at Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J. A funeral was held the next day.
Some in the media are referring to the photos as "unverified" and note that the photo does not carry the name of a photographer. However, no one from Houston's family has come forward so far to say the photo is fraudulent.
If the photos were not authorized, that sets the stage for an investigation into who took advantage of Houston's tragic death, and her grieving family, to make a little money. Or, perhaps, a lot of money.
Houston, 48, died in a Beverly Hills hotel room earlier this month. She was found submerged in a bathtub just hours before she was scheduled to attend a pre-Grammys soiree hosted by her longtime mentor, Clive Davis.