(Originally posted February 11, 2014)
Two years ago one of the greatest entertainers alive was suddenly taken from us. Whitney Houston is not only a true icon, but she has always held a special place in my heart. Some may laugh or joke that we are not family: why do I defend her? why do I still care? But there are reasons. Reasons like her beauty, spirituality, and strength among other characteristics that I have admired so much. There is a reason that in my mind there’s Whitney Houston … and then everybody else. It really comes from a kind of love that has been rooted since my childhood, which is why I have always supported her through her amazing times and yes, even her rough patches. Not to mention there’s that Voice. I mean, I could clearly go on about my love for her, but here are just 5 reasons why I will always celebrate (Aunt) Whitney Houston.
1. With every performance, it’s like she blessed us.
I can’t even lie. I was not even born when she sang the Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl. But that didn’t stop the rest of the country from realizing that a voice could resonate through America and ring such freedom and truth with each note. Is it wrong that I automatically compare every Star Spangled performance to this one? No, because I know I’m not the only one. Even when some would say her voice was going, she would still be able to affect us with emotion and confidence.
2. She was cool, and everyone kind of knew it.
There are few artists that have the backing of basically the entire industry they are a part of [heyy Beyoncè]. Not only did Whitney have the admiration of fellow artists and fans, but we all kind of wanted to hang out with her. From her diva catch phrases to her Newark attitude mixed with the hand movements of a church-going lady. Even during that now infamous Diane Sawyer interview, you would have rather been in a chair in the room then sitting on your couch watching through a television. Need more evidence? Watch the I’m Every Woman music video where she hangs with TLC, Chaka Khan and a group of dancing ladies… and she’s pregnant. Too cool.
3. Timeless beauty
She was beautiful. BEAUTIFUL . She was one of the first to have the powerhouse voice with the gorgeous face. So many fans (artists including) always love to reminisce that Whitney was the first Black woman to really come out and change-up the pop era of the 80s and her looks definitely made it that easier. My favorite beauty era of hers is actually the 90s when she was in her 30s at the time, and gorgeous as ever!
4. The Voice
The Voice that still raises goosebumps for me while I try to belt out “I Have Nothing” or “Greatest Love of All” alongside her. Of course, I always fail. [don’t even ask about “I Will Always Love You”] Some say its the natural chords that run in her family from her mother Cissy Houston to her relatives Dionne Warwick & Aretha Franklin, strong friendship with the Winans or the by-the-way training she received while singing in the church. Just know that there is no one, no one who will hit the notes, like she did. They seemed to have been designed for her by God. At her strongest, it was gospel for me. The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack is still one of the top selling gospel albums of all time and very dear favorite of mine. I own a copy myself and will only listen to her versions of “I Love The Lord” and “Joy to The World” over everyone. Yet, it’s when she shamelessly approached covers and effortlessly made them her owns hat you can truly tell her talent was like no other. For this I provide an example that I am so happy to have found. One of my all-time favorite artists singing one of my all-time favorite songs? It was Godsend.
5. The Films
I am so in love with every single film of Whitney’s that I have grouped them up into what I have termed the Whitney Quintet. Want to learn something interesting? It was by way of film that I fell in love with Whitney … naturally. As previously stated, although I love her music and performances just as much, I was not alive for the bulk of her highest peak in music. So it was in 1996 when I saw her in The Preacher’s Wife and fell. in. love. Her role as Julia Biggs, a wife of a preacher who suddenly finds herself enjoying the company of a handsome man (Denzel Washington) a bit too much, held such sway with me. I do love Christmas, and it was a Christmas movie. So the combination of that and her compilation of gospel and Christmas songs [at her best] was enough for me to fall in awe of this woman. We might as well blame my mother since she would later buy me the movie and soundtrack. The next year, with the rest of my generation, we were enamored when Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella premiered on our television screens with one of the most multi-cultural casts ever in a live Disney movie. Brandy was our teen princess and Whitney will forever be our fairy godmother. You could say I worked my way backwards, because it was when I was in my teens that I was finally allowed to watch The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. Instantly, they were on my all-time favorite list of films. Unlike singers-turned-actress nowadays, Whitney was still able to come across as more of an actress; even when you heard her voice singing “Count on Me” with good friend Cece Winans over the ending scene of WTE, her character still on-screen [ugh I just got goosebumps]. Once again, it was even more beautiful when it seemed that her castmates had only good things to say about their scenes, ultimately becoming friends (i.e. Angela Bassett & Kevin Costner). I’ll always love a good ship. It is sad to know that Sparkle would be the last of her film series, but when you watch the movie, it eerily seems okay it would end with it. Through everything, to see her perform “His Eye is On the Sparrow” in the setting of a church is truly divine in itself.
It is rare that a talent like Whitney Houston comes into the world. Yet it is so much rare for her to be in my mother’s generation of artists, but I have such an admiration and love for her [yes, pretty much like I knew her]. I do think it’s crazy. However, I believe that what we interact with in our childhoods can hold an impact for the rest of our lives. I could blame all these reasons for making me deeply appreciate someone I never met, yet I thank them because forever and always I can and will celebrate Whitney Houston.