Honoring Whitney Houston

"...give honor to whom honor is due."  Romans 13:7

I’ve struggled over my decision to blog about Whitney Houston as it relates to the current film release by the Whitney Houston Estate.  Primarily because I have yet to see it.  I’ve only read the various reviews and articles written since it’s release and decided that perhaps it is better that I write having not seen it.  In this way my statements are without bias regarding the actual film, but unfiltered, emanating only from the perspectives given to the general public by means of interviews and articles presented, and my personal experience in relationship to Whitney Houston. 

What I’ve read and seen so far has sickened and angered me.  My heart cries out for Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina, and John Houston who are unable to speak for or defend themselves  because they are no longer present with us.  My heart goes out to Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and her family, Robyn Crawford and Bobby Brown who are still with us, but at the mercy of fragmented interpretations by those who have determined what should be presented as Whitney Houston’s story.  A story to be etched in stone… timeless scenes revealed for generations to come, extending beyond the scope of the limited presence on earth of the individuals held responsible for so great a task as honoring the life and legacy of this rare and beautiful soul that brought so much life and love and awe inspired moments into our lives through the beauty of the most unique and rare voice of our lifetime. 

To say that she didn’t care about her voice is a misinterpretation.  She cared.  She cared about people and her family more and the weight and pressures of that was greater than her ability to take care of herself. Not my opinion. Her own words to me. That is how she felt. 

Whitney Houston’s story has not been told, and there are only a few people who could actually tell it with any accuracy or honesty. 

Whitney’s true legacy will not be spoken on the lips of family and acquaintances, because although she was a giving and loving spirit, she often held back many of her thoughts and feelings in an effort to not offend family and friends, and only revealed those things to people she knew would never repeat it.  She was selective in whom she could trust and be totally transparent with, and smart enough to know who that was while she was living.  She believed in loyalty.  Although she was comfortable being alone and private, she was also a team player in business when needed and understood the weight of responsibility she shouldered as one who was chosen to carry within themselves this magnificent gift that touched the whole world. 

She once said to me “Pattie, this gift that God has given me comes with a price.  It’s a great responsibility.  I’m not worthy of it, but I understand what I have to do… what my purpose is.  They don’t understand.  This is hard, and I just want to live my life, but I know that God has a purpose for me greater than I am.  That’s why I take the Gospel everywhere I go.  I sing about Jesus because I know I can use my gift to tell people that Jesus loves them, and they’ll listen.”  At the end of the day, this was her heart.  A heart towards God and a love for people that was greater than her own needs and desires. 

Her understanding of life and the principles of her faith in her belief in God and Christian doctrine was far greater than is ever mentioned or focused on or ever given credit for. Cissy Houston is to be thanked for this foundation. Whitney was genius in her ability to balance between the persona of the industry’s image of her and the expectations that came along with that image as an iconic African American female Artist representing her country throughout her travels as the greatest singer in the world.  She did this through her performance, beauty and grace each time she stepped out onto that stage in a gown with the grace and stature that was ultimately Whitney, and only Whitney. 

She championed that image against all odds and criticism during a time when it was not the norm for any African American Female Artist, nor was it the desired or accepted achievement within a white Pop music culture. Whitney Houston changed that forever for every African American female that would dare dream of being number one on the Pop charts.  Whitney forged ahead, taking every blow the media could throw at her, no matter how painful, no matter how resistant of her climb to fame.  In another conversation she teared up reflecting upon all that she had accomplished and still the tabloids and the media chose only to exploit and criticize her.  She fought back through her gift and soared.  She did this her entire career. 

That being said, to focus on the days of her life that were less honorable in her death is cruel and heartless.  To say that you are presenting a “humanized” Whitney is an excuse for your inability to produce the real Whitney because you don’t actually know who that is.  You are not privy to the heart of who she is, nor is your perspective now or in the past of Whitney in her best interest, but In the interest of the present climate of opinion regarding certain family members.  If it were in her best interest, the goal would be to protect the legacy for generations to come at every cost. 

To expose personal tragedies held in confidence by the deceased, to exploit the not so honorable details of an individuals life, and to do so justifying your actions by stating you wanted to give the public a better understanding of an individuals downfall… well, why would this be your focus in the first place as the executor of an estate?  Particularly after constant statements of disapproval of other presentations focusing on these things?  What is the catalyst for presenting such a tragic view?  Where are the countless number of days of all the positive efforts that went into sustaining a career as the greatest voice of all time?  It didn’t happen just by sitting around doing drugs and being negative and not having any self esteem and being unhappy on a daily basis year after year after year (for 30 years), and wallowing in self pity over an (second hand) alleged sexual abuse or broken heart because you couldn’t be with somebody or any of the other ridiculous claims focused on as an explanation for who the most successful female artist in history really is!  In HISTORY! 

You have an opportunity to basque and glory in your ability to represent a historical figure and seal their memory into the annuls of music history forever as the keeper and protector of a Legacy filled with record breaking global success and the irreplaceable voice of the most acclaimed female singer in the 20th Century and your choice is to give the “family” closure and present an alleged explanation for her downward spiral… and… all you can still say is drug addict? And… sexual abuse? 

You place the life story of Whitney Houston in the hands of someone who was not a fan, didn’t follow her career, unfamiliar with African American culture and experience, and sign off on the Director’s cut?  Where is all the footage that was shot over the course of her career all those years that I saw her being filmed everywhere we went just on a daily basis showing her smiling, laughing, happy, productive, planning, strategizing, or just enjoying life?  Where is that?  It definitely happened, it’s a real part of her life, it wasn’t imaginary.  I was there. 

Where are the stats on how her music changed the culture, changed the acceptance of Christian music, interracial relationships, African American acceptance in the Pop arena, the acceptance of African American artists in cultures of other nations, the vocal style of female and male artists globally, her part in the political structuring and relationship between South Africa and the U.S. as an Ambassador, where is all of that? 

If the goal of an authorized documentary on the life of a legend is to give the “family” closure, stating that the sufferings of the family after Whitney’s death is catalyst enough to present parts of her life that can neither be confirmed or denied by her, then call the film the “Closure For The Family of Whitney Houston”.  To state that any other interaction with Whitney Houston throughout her lifetime with people other than a blood family member is invalid in the picture of truth regarding any individuals life story is short sighted and grossly inaccurate to say the least.  To justify that statement by saying that those individuals don’t really know because they were ‘hired”, (they were only there as employees) in an effort to minimize anything said by anyone other than family is absurd, considering the fact that everyone including family were “hired”. 

Is there anyone on earth who actually tells their family the truth about their deepest most treasured and intimate heartfelt secrets or feelings?  Do you yourself share every moment of your true feelings towards family members with them, or the things you’ve done that you absolutely choose to keep hidden from family and the world, and would you want your family to expose your private affairs to the entire world after you are deceased? 

More importantly, in the biggest possible picture of the truth, can you honestly and truthfully tell the story of the life of an iconic Artist in an effort to present who they really are without being inclusive of that Artists personal choices in who they chose to be closest to outside of an immediate family member? 

My family knows me from a family perspective.  My family is not however aware of countless details of my life, my pain, heartbreak, successes, moments of secrecy, people that influenced my life in their absence, conversations I had with my best friends about family, things I did that no one should ever know.. etc.  Our encounters with people throughout our lifetime shape our paths and personalities.  This is true for every human being.  There is truth and their is fact.  Truth is absolute.  A fact is an isolated moment among many moments that only presents the actions taken in that moment.  It does not represent the entire truth.  Thus the need to gather all of the facts to arrive at the Truth. 

No, the goal was not to tell the true story of Whitney Houston, but to offer a perspective that “indemnifies” and releases family members from the scrutiny of the publics interests in questioning the sincerity of family members… with no regard for it’s affect on Cissy Houston, John Houston, Robyn Crawford or others thrown under the bus, as a means to “show the world the real Whitney”.  By the grace of God be thankful that your own personal laundry is not out there for the entire world to examine along with what you allege is hers during the same period of time reflected in these films. Why isn’t it included… it’s no one else’s business. This same attitude should be taken regarding Whitney Houston who by no means lived  out their life as a victim, but forged ahead regardless of life’s disappointments through her faith in God who was her strength.  She had no hesitation in declaring this always. 

Whitney Houston’s story remains untold as long as there is no story reflecting her view of life, her ability to rise to iconic stature despite life’s struggles and temptations, how her core beliefs kept her going in her weakest most vulnerable states (and what those core beliefs were because she defined herself by them), that choice that she made over and over and over again to keep giving her all to her family, her friends, her loved ones regardless of her struggles, her concern for the financial security of her family and the families of all those whom she created jobs for and employed throughout her career, and the impact of her presence in this world and it’s resulting affect globally. 

If you want people to really know who Whitney Houston is, then tell that story.  If you want people to forget the unpleasant parts that you feel you’re paying a price for, tell a different story.  If you want closure, see a therapist, but honor the individual whose gift not only enhanced the quality of life for all who participated in her amazing journey, but continues to enhance the life of the family both financially and prestigiously as a result of her continued fame. Give her what she had always hoped to experience from the world.  Tell her story without prejudice of criticism.  She experienced enough of that while living.  Her voice, her music, her performances, and all that it took to be Whitney Houston the Artist, that is her Legacy. 

We can choose what we want to be remembered regarding any individual when we are entrusted with the difficult task of protecting a legacy. 

Whitney Houston is at the mercy of her Estate and the those entrusted to tell her story.  Bobbi Kristina is at the mercy of those deciding to tell her story. 

There are three distinct periods of time that defines Whitney Houston’s achievements as a recording icon.  Pre Body Guard, Body Guard through 2000, and 2000 through 2012.  Take a closer look at those who were present for that journey, and those who were the executive teams helping to guide and assist during those time periods.  Look at her most successful years and a true story will unfold. 

I am not concerned at all for anyone’s opinion regarding what I’ve written, because what I could say would be far more damaging to those entrusted with her Legacy, but I understand the meaning of confidante, and I honor that. I am only grateful to have been a part of this story, and to be called a true friend by Whitney herself. 

I recently had a dream where Whitney asked for my help as she was about to face a massive audience larger than any I had seen in my years working with her.  She was deeply saddened in this dream and it was as real as if I were awake.  I was startled when I actually woke up and it took a minute to distinguish between a dream state and being awake.  That same week it was announced that the Whitney film would premier in Cannes.  I don’t care how anyone feels about what I have to say, and I will say this… Bobbi Kristina, Cissy Houston, John Houston,, Clive Davis, Robyn Crawford and Donna Houston are all to be commended for the part they played in the success of the most famous voice of our lifetime.  Collectively, they know the true story of Whitney Houston and have always had her best interests overall at heart.  She loved them all deeply, and they loved her. 

(There are others in her executive team, agents, publicists, attorneys, accountants, also those who performed on stage with her who are also to be commended). 

Separate business from personal agendas.  If you do not respect her in death, how can anyone believe you respected her in life? If you cannot be objective concerning her in death, why would anyone believe you were while she was living?  Why use her life to make yours feel better?  We’re all still here with an opportunity to make the rest of our own days as happy and fruitful as possible.  Why should anyone do this at her expense and the expense of private matters of her’s and other’s?  Because it sells?  Whitney Houston sells period. 

Somewhere there is a film producer with the skill and genius to create an award winning film about Whitney Houston from a positive perspective of the success of her career and still hold captive an audience because after all, it’s Whitney Houston!   And that is what and who she is! This is what she did! Everything she wanted the world to know about her drug addiction and struggles, she made sure she said it herself while she was with us. It is absolutely possible to document her life in a positive and breathtaking manner, one that is as breathtaking as she was, and as her gift was, in spite of her struggles. It is possible to do, and give the audience answers, and captivate, and document, without disclosing sensitive details told to trusted individuals in confidence. 

This film will not undo any past portrayals of Whitney and the Houston family, or the family’s involvement in her life struggles, and may change the perspective, but it will not tell her story if the focus is shy of her tremendous success in detail. 

Leave Robyn Crawford alone. She has shown more respect and love for Whitney in her death than everyone, and was a powerful force in the success of Whitney Houston’s career. Honor Cissy Houston, a legend in her own right, who bares the greatest loss of all as her mother. Shame on anyone who would feel the necessity of portraying Cissy in any light other than honorable… after all, your continued participation in financial matters is to her credit. 

I encourage every singer, every band member, every crew member, every staff member past and present to write or post about all the positive memories of Whitney Houston that we have, honoring her today.  Help show the world who Whitney Houston truly was, and that she lived and fought to the best of her ability given the circumstances that surround so many recording Artists.  Let the world know the love and care she provided for each and every one of us, including our families and children. Tell how she took that stage no matter what she was going through and the pressures of family and business, she kept pushing and fighting. It didn’t have to be to the satisfaction of anyone but her own ability to keep going. Tell that story, and let her rest in grace and peace. 

I had hoped that the film the family would present would be so outstanding that it would cause people to forget all the negativity presented throughout Whitney’s career because it was different and refreshing, entertaining, riveting, heartfelt and quite frankly a close up and personal view of her greatest attributes.  Instead, from what I have read, it is more of the same things that brought her so much pain, but has it’s moments… 

In one of her last conversations with me she said this: “No matter what I do, it will never be great enough. I gave them The Body Guard, I Will Always Love You… you know?  My voice… my life… God let me reach the top and I’m so humbled… but how do I top that?  What do I do now?  They’re always gonna compare me and say whatever they wanna say about me.  There are all these younger singers now (I won’t name the singers she spoke of) and they expect me to compete with that… but I’m me… I can only be me.  What do I do now? I’m tired Pattie”  And I said to her, you already have the answer, you already know what it is.  Just do you.  She laughed and said, “I know that’s right!” It’s in God’s hands.  Whatever I do next it will be God’s will.” Not long after that she released “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”.  That is the Whitney Houston I know.  Rest in the God of Love, Grace, Mercy and Peace Whitney.  Happy Birthday my friend.

By Pattie Howard