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With the premiere of the much anticipated biopic, Whitney, just hours away, Yaya DaCosta is definitely the queen of the night. The America’s Next Top Model alum has taken on the daunting task of portraying the late great Whitney Houston with respect to the family, friends, and fans who loved her. Something that audiences are hoping Lifetime has learned how to do the hard way (ahem– Aaliyah).

“It’s scary playing anybody who is a real live person,” Yaya admits to the Chicago Sun-Times. “There are people who knew that person that are going to look for evidence. They want to see similarities. …For me it was more about capturing her essence. It’s the overall essence that I was trying to portray. It’s her soul that I was hoping the audience would feel.”

For that, DaCosta turned to the film’s director, Angela Bassett, for some sage advice from someone who’s been there and done it– well. Well enough to earn an Academy Award nomination. It was Bassett who told her:

“It takes confidence and trust in oneself to be able to attempt to step into the shoes of someone so great. If there isn’t that trust within, it’s very difficult to make anybody else believe that you’re a diva.”

And it seems that Yaya had enough confidence left over to step into the shoes of some more greats. In the days leading up to the movie’s premiere, the young model and actress posed for a series of photos honoring eight legendary ladies and sparking a movement to unite women everywhere.

“I wanted to celebrate how Whitney always embraced sisterhood and do a photo series in the spirit of ‘I’m Every Woman’ (which I sing in the movie). This week, I’m paying homage to 8 other women who inspire me and I’m inviting us all to celebrate seeing ourselves in each other — no matter what color we are or where we come from.”

From Audrey Hepburn to Eartha Kitt, DaCosta captures the essence and the soul of each woman — make that, every woman — flawlessly.

 #IMEVERYWOMAN: Yaya DaCosta Pays Homage to 8 Legendary Ladies

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