The Whitney Houston My 12-Year-Old Self Remembers
I have these vivid memories of squealing with my girlfriends as we donned our big headband bows to match the bow which graced the hair of our idol, the Barbie-like Whitney Houston in her "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" video filled with sparkles and so much good cheer. She was that perfect mix of innocence and so much promise, and had this voice that when you heard it- could pierce right through your very essence. At the time, I didn't have an inkling about love but when I watched her sing, "Saving all my love for you," I gleaned that it was this powerful and at times incredibly painful process that would both exhilarate and terrify me. Her voice had that power to engender this cavalcade of emotions and her songs imprinted these visual memories, that even today, so many years later can be conjured up by merely hearing just a few notes from one of her songs.
Whitney was the voice, and when she sang, she had the power to literally open up the heavens. It must have been both a blessing and a curse to have so much riding on that voice, to in fact, even be referred to and reduced to the moniker "the voice". I think about how when I was just 12, she was only just 22-- and to have all that acclaim and fame, all that pressure at the tender age of 22 how could she possibly have been equipped to handle all of it? To be the golden child of music mogul Clive Davis, to be thrust into the limelight and the feeling that so many were depending on her to pull another perfect, error free song from those vocal chords of hers. She must have been so very tired and scared and maybe she even felt helpless.
This is all speculation on my part, but what else would have propelled a woman with so much raw talent and a world of fans at her feet to become embroiled in a downward spiraling drug addiction that after years of abuse robbed her of that voice. Perhaps she was bent on destroying that voice which brought her acclaim to begin with, purposefully, so that she'd no longer be on the hook to deliver? I'm sure I'm not the first or last person who was shocked by her choice to marry a well-known bad boy, and stay in a marriage that each year seemed to drain just a bit more of the Whitney who dazzled us when she first rose to acclaim. But perhaps in choosing to be in a relationship like that she was making a choice to pull away from Hollywood, from the trappings of celebrity and to consciously shed that younger version of herself.
Of course seeing her with her only child, her daughter Bobbi Christina-- one couldn't help but think- this is a mother who loves her daughter too fiercely and deeply to allow her addiction to jeopardize her time on earth with her baby. But I guess it doesn't matter how successful she was, how much love she had for her daughter, if ultimately she didn't have the foundation of being surrounded by people who weren't willing to facilitate her addiction. And yet when the gossip rags ran salacious articles and pictures of Whitney, who in recent years had become a shadow of her former self both physically in her appearance and as a performer-- rather than provide her with support as a society we all jumped on the proverbial bandwagon of tearing her down.
Clearly she was battling demons, and I'm sure being fodder for late-night talk show host monologues wore on her, and despite the fame she had accrued she clearly was not immune to the frailties of the human condition. It also seems impossible for anyone to burn so brightly for so many years without that light being extinguished, its just not natural to be able to maintain that level of stardom. But our society has an insatiable appetite for celebrities, and our expectations of them. We put them on pedestals, only to yank them off and nitpick their every move so that we can label them loathsome.
I feel such sadness for Whitney, I feel sad that such a beautiful voice will no longer grace our world, that her chance at redemption and a fresh start did not come to fruition, but most of all that the daughter, who seemed to be her beacon of strength and only hope for salvation, will now have to continue on her earthly journey without her mother.