All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
– Shakespeare, As You Like It
Act One: The Ingenue
Whitney grew up in New Jersey, the cousin of famed singer Dionne Warwick. Whitney caught the attention of music mogul Clive Davis, who mentored her. Her debut album, Whitney Houston, was released when she was just 22 and became an instant success thanks to singles like “How Will I Know” and “Saving All My Love for You,” and “Greatest Love of All.” (Fun fact: Jermaine Jackson was a producer on the album.)
Act Two: The Diva
Whitney’s star continued to shine. In addition to performing one of the most renowned versions of the Star-Spangled Banner ever, she starred in a little movie called The Bodyguard and turned a charming country song by Dolly Parton into a global smash hit. If Whitney had been a contestant on American Idol, Randy Jackson would have either told her “you can sang” or “you can sing the phone book.” Also, surprisingly, he would have been right.
Act Three: The Wife and Mother
In 1992, Whitney married Bobby Brown, one of the members of New Edition. The marriage surprised many, as Brown’s wild, party-boy reputation seemed to clash with Houston’s good-girl persona. Their daughter Bobbi Kristina was born the next year.
Act Four: The Legend
Whitney’s place in the American music world was without question. She partnered with fellow diva Mariah Carey for “When You Believe” from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. In 1998, she released My Love Is Your Love, which had her collaborating with everyone from Rodney Jerkins to Missy Elliott.
Act Five: The Target
Eventually, rumors began to circulate about Houston’s home life. She missed or failed to show up from several high-profile appearances, including one where she was supposed to sing at the Oscars but was replaced at the last minute with Faith Hill. In 2000, Houston and Brown narrowly escaped arrest at a Hawaiian airport when security found pot in their luggage. Other drug allegations swirled, and in 2006 the National Enquirer published photos they claimed were of “Whitney’s Drug Den,” with a crack pipe and other drug paraphernalia.
Act Six: The Laughingstock
As drug rumors surrounded Houston and Brown, Whitney did a sit-down interview with Diane Sawyer. The interview did very little to repair Whitney’s reputation – instead, she came off as paranoid and scattered. Several of the clips from the interview were remixed and turned into techno songs that poked fun at Whitney. To be fair, that “crack is whack” part was hilarious.
In 2005, Bravo aired the reality show Being Bobby Brown, which featured Bobby and Whitney’s home life. Rather than rehabilitating Whitney’s reputation, the show made both of them look pretty bad. Their bizarre behavior only continued to fuel drug allegations. (However, there was this one part where Whitney yelled “I don’t wrestle, I fucking beat bitches up!” which is a direct quote from Coral on one of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge seasons. In other words, Whitney and I have the same taste in bad TV.)
Also, if you are faint of heart, you probably don’t want to know what her definition of “black love” is.
Act Seven: The Comeback
In 2007, Whitney divorced Bobby. Not long after, she announced plans to record a comeback album. That album, I Look to You, debuted at #1.
However, the sheen wore off. Audiences complained that Whitney’s voice had been badly damaged, and some performances were so bad that people walked out of her concerts and demanded their money back. In 2010, the National Enquirer ran a cover story claiming that Whitney’s drug addiction had damaged her health so badly that she would be dead in five years.
Will there be an eighth act for Whitney Houston? As one of the all time great singers, one music critic once commented that “her throat should be in the Smithsonian.” It’s normal for even the most legendary of talents to have ups and downs in their careers, but Whitney’s lows have been exceptionally low. She has never admitted to having a drug problem, and it seems unlikely that she would. The woman who once said “God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?” might need a gimmick if she really has lost her voice.