The bitter life of Whitney Houston: “I’d rather be alone than unhappy”

Pop deity Whitney Houston left millions of fans devastated in 2012 when she died in Beverly Hills, the night before the Grammy Awards. Her sudden death was attributed to drowning, heart disease and drug use.

Her life was far from easy, instead it was filled with tragedies, including a long battle with addiction and dealing with the downsides of fame and publicity. She experienced immense pain, heartbreak and personal issues, while also facing obstacles in her career.

Houston’s love of singing began when she was a child. At her mother’s encouragement, she joined the choir of the Baptist church in Newark, New Jersey. Her mother, Grammy-winning recording artist Sissy Houston, was responsible for overseeing the music program for a long time. “My mother was the first singer I was exposed to,” Whitney told Rolling Stone in a 1993 interview. “She was singing to us all the time at home, at church. My mother always told me, ‘If you don’t feel it, then don’t do it, because it’s a waste of time.'”

Whitney Houston’s first album was released in 1985, when she was 21 years old. She had been spotted by Jerry Griffiths of Arista Records while performing at a Manhattan nightclub with her mother, Sissy. Before starting her career in the music industry, Whitney had already dabbled in modeling. He worked for the agency Click and eventually for Wilhelmina.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

However, Houston revealed that the pressure for musical success was prescribed. “People were interested in me from the time I was fifteen – it was kind of like they were waiting for me to grow up. Everyone made their bids,” he told Rolling Stone.

Once Whitney entered the industry, she realized early on that there would be time for reflection. “I didn’t have time to grow up. I didn’t have time to party,” she said in an interview. “I wasn’t even dating in my 20s. I wasn’t that normal 20 year old young woman going through her phases. I was a millionaire by the time I was 22.”

A 2018 documentary by filmmaker Kevin MacDonald revealed that Whitney was abused as a child. The film followed the singer’s rise and fall. “There was something very disturbed about her because she was never comfortable in her own skin,” MacDonald told Vanity Fair. “She seemed kind of asexual in a weird way. She was a beautiful woman, but she was never particularly sexy. I’ve done some shoots with people who have suffered childhood abuse, and there was something about her manner that reminded me of that kind of shrinking – a lack of comfort in her own physicality.”

Her brother, Michael, told Oprah in a 2013 interview that he was responsible for Whitney trying drugs. However, he hadn’t realized that things would get so out of hand. “I feel responsible for letting it go so far. We were always together, I taught her to drive. We were playing together – everything you do together growing up – and then when you get into drugs, you do that together, and it just got out of hand.”

In 2002, Whitney spoke at length to Diane Sower about fighting addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs, as well as substances such as cocaine and marijuana. “I had a lot of parties. Trust me: I partied until I dropped,” he said. “You get to a point where you know the party’s over.”

She also added that she is in treatment and that addiction is in her past. “I’m not that excited about it anymore. I’m a man who has a life and wants to live,” he said, before adding that he prays he can avoid drugs altogether. “I will not break,” he emphasized.

At one point in the 1990s, her close friend Robin Crawford, her father John and ex-husband Bobby Brown tried to take control of her career, according to Rolling Stone. Things turned sour and Crawford asked her friend to choose between her and Brown. Whitney chose the latter. It is believed that her father and her husband did not really care for Houston and had their own motives for trying to get her to trust them.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In addition, her father began taking money from Whitney’s funds without her knowledge. She was already helping her family and the theft was a hard pill to swallow. Houston was so strapped for cash that she didn’t have the money to complete her rehab stint.

Whitney’s relationship with Bobby was tumultuous to say the least. It is believed that she decided to marry him to escape the relentless pressure and speculation about her relationship with Robin Crawford.

Houston’s friend and hairstylist Elin LaVar told People that the singer was tired of the rumors. “She got married to please people and stop them questioning her.” However, the couple had a difficult marriage from the start. First, they made each other’s addictions worse. “The problem with Whitney and Bobby was that they made each other’s addiction worse,” LaVar explained. “She did more cocaine, he drank more. But when they got together they both started doing more cocaine and drinking together. It just manifested itself in a very bad way.”

Photo: YouTube

In addition, Brown was jealous of his wife’s success and fame. When Oprah asked Houston about it, the singer admitted that her ex-husband was indeed jealous. She also revealed that she was asking people to call her Mrs Brown. “He never liked the fact that people said, ‘You’re jealous of her.’ You’re just jealous of her fame and her fortune and what she’s got and all that, and she was really pissed off. But it is not unnatural for a man to feel this way. Or to feel that he is missing.”

Whitney’s drug abuse slowly began to become apparent. Her voice quality suffered and she couldn’t make hits. This was a definitive blow to her career in the 2000s. In an attempt to regain control of her life, the singer visited a rehab center a few times before declaring herself clean in 2010.

Houston struggled to hit the high notes at her London concert. “She doesn’t want to come, my friend the soprano,” Winfrey told the audience, according to the Guardian. Many in the audience chose to leave the show midway through, and Houston blamed the air conditioning for her problems. “Turn off the air-con,” she demanded of her concert organizers. “I feel it. It’s driving out my soprano.”

In Australia, according to Rolling Stone, she couldn’t remember the names of her backup singers and was coughing non-stop. Her show received many negative comments from the audience. Close friend Aretha Franklin spoke about the incidents. “She had lost the top range of her voice and some of the audience were not very kind. But night after night, she stood there like a champion and gave it her all.”

Houston remained silent for a long time about her family problems. She opened up about being spat on by her ex-husband on his birthday, an incident witnessed by their daughter Bobbi Kristina. “He had such hatred in his eyes for me.”

In 2015, Bobbi Kristina will be found dead in the bathtub, just like her mother in 2012, under unclear circumstances.

Photo: YouTube

Seven years after her loss, Robin Crawford, her friend, has spoken of how deep their relationship was. In her memoir, A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston, she revealed details of her friendship with the singer. “I had gotten to the point where I felt the need to defend our friendship. And I felt the need to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent.”

The two met at a summer camp in 1980 and hit it off immediately. “We wanted to be together,” Crawford admitted. “And that meant just us.” However, once Houston put her contract with music manager Clive Davis into effect, she told Crawford that she could no longer be with her. “He said we shouldn’t be physically together anymore because that would make our journey even more difficult. He said that if people found out about us, they would use that against us, and back in the ’80s, that’s how it happened.”

She was also often considered not black enough and was even booed at the Soul Train Awards in 1989. Her saxophonist, Kirk Wallum, described the experience as heartbreaking for Houston. “It was one of those boxes that were checked, it ended up being lost because of those boxes,” he said.
Houston’s team focused on creating an image that would make her a fan favorite, one tailored to the tastes of white listeners. Songs that were too reminiscent of Whitney’s roots and black culture were revised in the studio. The pop star tried to break stereotypes and embrace her identity with “I’m Your Baby Tonight” while collaborating with stars like Stevie Wonder. Publicly, however, he could not be completely honest about matters of racial identity. “It’s not a nice feeling. You have to sit there and think, ‘Are they kidding me?’ You have to be cordial and smile like everything’s okay… You’re not black enough for them or you’re not R&B enough.’

The trailer for the new documentary I Wanna Dance With Somebody


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