Meet Naomi Ackie, the English actor playing iconic singer Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Here is everything you need to know about Naomi Ackie, the actress starring in the Whitney Houston movie across from Stanley Tucci

Naomi Ackie
(Image credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Staff / Getty Images)

Naomi Ackie is the actor who is set to step into an iconic role as she portrays the legend Whitney Houston, in the biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody. 

The Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance With Somebody biopic is set to be released on December 23, and fans can't wait to see this shocking film about the beloved singer. In this film, Naomi Ackie is set to star as Whitney. While fans may recognize the star from her previous work, this is the first major starring role the actor has earned in a blockbuster. Here is everything you need to know about this actor...


Where is Naomi Ackie from?

Although Naomi is playing an iconic American popstar, the actor is actually from England. The actor grew up in Walthamstow, northeast London and is not a nepotism baby by any means, her parents, Debra and Brian, worked for the NHS and TFL (Transport for London) services respectively. 

In an interview with The Times (opens in new tab) Naomi revealed that her parents kept her grounded when she told them about her ambitions to become an actress at age 12. Naomi recalled her mother saying, "‘You shouldn’t aim to be famous for anything, you should aim to be good at something.’ […] by the end I was crying, but that has stuck with me."

Sadly, Naomi's mother passed away nearly a decade ago. Speaking about this loss the actress said, "It’s tough. When you lose someone at that young age, you go, ‘I have all of these life things that are not going to be seen by her.’ Every celebration comes with a kind of ‘Ah, man.’ It’s nearly ten years, so it’s a milder version, but it’s still something I grapple with."

Naomi Ackie

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What has Naomi Ackie appeared in before?

While she may not yet be a household name, many people may recognize her for her film and television appearances and roles. 

Naomi played Jannah in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. In the same year the actor played Grace in The Corrupted with Timothy Spall and Sam Claflin. She also played Mona in Yardie (2018) and Anna in Lady Macbeth (2016).

The actress has also appeared in a number of television shows and had a leading role as Bonnie in season two of The End of the F***ing World. She also appeared in season nine of Doctor Who in the episode Face the Raven. The actor also had a main role in season three of Master of None as Alicia.

Naomi Ackie

(Image credit: Future Publishing / Contributor / Getty Images)

Does Naomi Ackie sing in I Wanna Dance with Somebody?

In the movie, recordings of Whitney Houston are used, so Naomi had to learn every breath and beat of the recording so she could lip-sync it perfectly. However, Naomi also took vocal lessons so she could sing in some parts of the film. In the earlier scenes when her character is in church, and later performing at clubs, that is Naomi singing.

"As soon as I got the part I was like, okay, clear the deck," she told Sky News (opens in new tab). "Not that I had a huge amount of jobs coming in - I don't want to make it seem like that - but it was definitely like, I don't want to take on any work, I just want to focus on this. And so it was about eight months of research and preparation and working with my movement coach and dialect coaches. I mean, the goal is that you practice so much that it's just in your body, so that you go on set and you just don't have to think about any of that."

What has Naomi Ackie said about playing Whitney Houston?

In the interview with The Times, Naomi explained that she was incredibly nervous about stepping into the role of such a legend. 

"Oh my God, I cannot explain the amount of panic attacks. My poor family, I feel so bad for them," she said. "You know in Peter Pan, Tinker Bell can only have one feeling at a time? I’m like that. I could only fill myself up with one feeling, so it would be absolute horror — ‘How am I going to do this?’ Or it would be like, ‘I can do it, I can take over the world.’"

When talking about auditioning for the role, Naomi remembers laughing at her agent. “I was like, ‘Ha ha, absolutely no. Are you insane? I don’t look like Whitney. I don’t talk like Whitney. I don’t sing like Whitney.'"

Laura Harman

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.