ABC/Christopher Willard

Jordin Sparks was assigned the daunting task of opening the season 31 premiere of Dancing with the Stars, but she made an excellent impression thanks to her late mentor Whitney Houston.

The American Idol winner chose to chacha to Whitney’s standout 1987 hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and explained why she wanted to set the first dance of the season to the late legend’s track.

“I love her,” Jordin explained to dance partner Brandon Armstrong. “I adore Whitney Houston. I got to do Sparkle with her.”

Sparkle was a 2012 remake of the 1976 musical film inspired by The Supremes. The movie was also Whitney’s final movie appearance, as she died shortly after filming wrapped.

“She was always like, ‘You got this and don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t,'” continued Jordin, adding that a Houston hit “is perfect for a premiere song.”

Jordin impressed the judges with her crisp cha-cha; judge Bruno Tonioli called her a “natural.” Host Tyra Banks also declared, “Miss Whitney is looking down on her baby girl and saying she’s proud, I know it.” 

The “No Air” singer earned a solid 26 points out of 40. Jordin said she felt Whitney’s presence as she danced and heard her telling her repeatedly, “You got this. You can do this!”

“She really encouraged me,” Jordin explained, adding she feels a strong “connection” to the 1987 hit song. 

The singer was voted into the next round, which airs next Monday, September 26 at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+. She will salute another singing legend next week, as the episode will be all about Elvis Presley.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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