It was the early 90’s and as a junior publicist, I was assigned to accompany BeBe and CeCe Winans on their concert stop at the Westbury Music Fair. It was that night where one of my career highlights occurred meeting “the voice.” This particular night she sang background for the duo with their sisters Angie and Debbie only to join in when the set list settled on their hit single “Hold Up The Light.” When reminded this could possibly cause friction with her label (Arista), label President (Clive Davis) and her Dad (John Houston) who were none too thrilled with these heartfelt pop-up appearances, she would scoff and do it anyway to help her dear friends. That’s the Whitney Houston I eventually got to know from a PR point of view. It was a magical time and so was she.
Whitney inhabited a voice and a body that is and will always be undeniably classic. However, her death, love life and how she chose live her life and who she lived it with has become a headline staple since meeting her untimely demise at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles
There have been numerous projects produced about the multi-Grammy winning artist ranging from reality shows, documentaries and and a Lifetime movie. Now we are subject to yet another project titled after one her biggest chart-topping hits – I Wanna Dance With Somebody directed by Kasi Lemmons and co-produced by its star Naomi Ackie.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody takes the audience on a journey all the different sides of love that made up the essence of Whitney Houston – the artist, woman, daughter, wife, mother and friend. The first quarter focuses heavily on the relationship with business partner and friend Robyn Crawford, how their unconventional love was not encouraged or embraced in a world refusing to accept anyone wishing to embrace their authentic self.
Through Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, the audience’s journey accelerates hitting highlights of her meteroic rise, marriage, missteps and iconic performances orchestrated and mapped out by her lifetime musical director – the legendary Rickey Minor. However, what worked so brilliantly well with McCarten’s “Rocketman” screenplay chronicling the life of Elton John seems to fall a little flat this time around leaving this film with no structure whilst giving the audience whiplash trying to keep up with the narrative.
Lemmons, for the most part, sticks to the facts and allows Whitney’s original voice to permeate throughout the film. While its star Naomie Ackie superbly captures Whitney’s essence and performances to near perfection. Watching Ackie grow and evolve from a young girl to a global phenomenon could’ve been daunting, but Naomie tackles it all with respect and class. Fans will sing along, be transported back to the first time hearing her songs and how it made them feel.
Gerald Sullivan and Charlese Antoinette Jones created exceptional production and costume design and their work definitely notes being acknowledged.
But, the most haunting and emotional moment comes from a ‘man’ medley that starts and ends the film including “I Loves You Porgy,” “And I am Telling You” and “I Have Nothing” driving home all the loves of her life then and now.
Whitney Houston has now joined the ranks of the many iconic talents like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and more whose stories will always have a fascination with the public who loved and adored them. I just wish they could all could enjoy the peace in death, none of them were afforded in life.