What you don’t know is Whitney Houston would often times show up un-announced to sing back-up and hit the stage with BeBe and CeCe Winans for their hit song “Hold Up the Light.” How do I know? I was there. The Whitney Houston I encountered was a down-to-earth, kind, generous home-girl from New Jersey. Why wouldn’t she be? She was gorgeous, with that voice that transcended the heavens and was at the height of her career. When she could’ve been anywhere else, she made the decision to help her friends cross-over from the gospel to pop and r&b charts.
Whitney Houston was a star. A star that shone so bright that she could barely keep up with the spotlight. There have been many things written, rumored, reported and gossiped about when it comes to the beautiful young vocalist, but no one knows her better than family and those who work closely with her over the years.
Many a documentary and special have been produced about Whitney since her passing, but this one produced with Sister-In-Law, Pat Houston , seems to be the most impressive one to date. WHITNEY focuses more on humble beginnings in the church with her Mom – Cissy Houston, the glory days with Clive Davis, touring and how her career literally took off like a rocket. Footage from her first appearance on the Mike Douglas show to serenading her young daughter on stage are moments in time captured that will live on in eternity reminding us of her heart and her musical brilliance. On the film side, it briefly addresses allegations of drug abuse, being sexually abused by family member DeeDee Warwick (sister of Grammy winning artist and cousin Dionne Warwick), her complicated relationship with her Dad, the much speculated relationship with best friend/assistant Robyn Crawford and the demise of the person she loved the most Bobbi Kristina.
Director Kevin McDonald very creatively uses archival music video footage and interviews with Rickey Minor, Babyface, Cissy Houston, Clive Davis, Gary Houston, Bobby Brown and more. McDonald also reminds us why America was so drawn to her charismatic persona and how the pressures of being a superstar ultimately were her undoing. He asks tough questions and sometimes they are answered and other times they are not. It all reminds you that you are dealing with friends and family that are still grieving the loss of an icon, friend, ex-wife, sister, mother and a daughter.
As a journalist, I know I’m supposed to be impartial, but Whitney hits very close to home. Even as I type these words, the reality that she’s gone somehow fills me with such pain and angst while not quite sinking in. I wish life had dealt her a different deck of cards. A life that would’ve seen her with grow old, resurrect her glorious career, remarried and watch her baby girl have a chance to slide from underneath the mega-storm that was – Whitney Houston.
The only solace myself and her legions of fans have is that her beautiful voice and image will live throughout eternity for other generations to enjoy. I – for one – Will Always Love You – Whitney. Released by MIramax and Roadside Attractions – WHITNEY is in theaters TODAY July 6th.