Best described as ‘a singers’ singer’ whose emergence opened the door for other vocalists, Whitney Houston would be remembered as one of the world’s greatest singers.
A mezzo-soprano, pop diva, gospel legend, and R&B hitmaker, Houston’s supremacy in music, to date, remains unsurpassed, both in quality and vigor. Until her shocking and devastating demise, the “I Will Always Love You” hitmaker wore various hats as a singer, model, and actress.
Houston’s exceptional voice and career success impacted – to a very large extent – the lives of renowned hitmakers like Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Ashanti, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande (to name but a few). Her impacts in the industry were so much that her record-breaking achievements were likened to those of legendary pop star Michael Jackson.
To date, African-American women such as Janet Jackson and Anita Baker still link their success and breakthrough in popular music to Whitney’s emergence and advancement which they believe led to a complete shift from what was previously obtainable in the music industry.
Until her death, she was America’s queen of the mic who influenced budding vocalists and even the younger generation into singing in the pop, R&B, soul, and gospel genres.
Whitney Houston Bio
Prior to Whitney’s arrival on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, her father, John Russell Houston, Jr., was working as an entertainment executive officer while her mother Emily Cissy Houston was a renowned gospel and soul artist.
After John (also an army serviceman) and Cissy had her, she began to learn the ropes and the rudiments of music from her mother (a Grammy-winning gospel artist). Nearing perfection, Whitney started ministering in her church – The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she was also taught how to play the piano.
Because she was surrounded by music genius, especially in her family, it was not long before she started performing with her mother.
Apart from her mother, Whitney Houston had other music icons who were at her beck and call. Her first cousin Dionne Warwick, godmother Aretha Franklin, cousin Dee Dee Warwick, elder brother Michael Houston were all music superstars except for her elder half-brother, Gary Garland, who was a basket player.
The legendary singer’s parents, both Afro-American, however, divorced after the 1977 Newark riots forced them to relocate to East Orange, New Jersey.
Born as Whitney Elizabeth Houston, Whitney became a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band’s single “Life’s a Party” at the age of 14 and subsequently did background vocals for popular American recording artists Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan at the age of 15.
Whitney Houston Rise To Stardom
Though she found more success as a singer, her beauty is credited for her first limelight exposure. During one of her stage performances alongside her mom, she was discovered by a photographer who shortly got her to grace the cover of “Seventeen”, making her among the first African-American to do so. While she excelled in her modeling career, Whitney held on strong to music.
Teenage Whitney began receiving offers from numerous record labels but waited until she was 20 to sign with Arista Records. After several years of work, she released her debut self-titled album in 1985. The album experienced exponential success, churning Billboard Hot 100 hits and peaking atop the Billboard 100 for 14 non-consecutive weeks. The album went multiple platinum and won her multiple awards including her first Grammy.
Whitney’s success continued with her follow-up album “Whitey” released in 1987 which debuted atop the Billboard 200, making her the first black woman to accomplish the feat. The album sold over 20 million copies worldwide and received 9x certification.
Massive Success With “The Bodyguard”
The year 1992 proved to the extremely successful for Whitney as it was the most lucrative year of her career. Following the massive successes of her albums, high grossing tours and concerts and multiple awards, she dabbled in Hollywood making her debut in the movie “The Bodyguard”.
Though her acting was greatly met with negative reviews, the opposite was the case for the movie soundtrack which she recorded – a cover of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You”.
The song was so successful it became widely popular as her signature song. It broke multiple records on numerous charts worldwide. The soundtrack sold over 44 million copies and won her 3 Grammy Awards among other coveted awards. The movie itself wasn’t entirely a failure as it grossed over $410 million worldwide.
Thanks to the success of the soundtrack and its related projects, Forbes named Whitney Houston as the 3rd Highest Paid Female Entertainer of the year (1993-1994) with earnings of $33 million, bested only by Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand. During these periods, Whitney Houston’s wealth was estimated at about $150 million.
Whitney Houston also enjoyed more success in Hollywood; for her role in 1996 movie “The Preacher’s Wife”, she received $10 million, also the soundtrack for the movie which she recorded became the best selling gospel soundtrack of all time.
Whitney Houston Husband, Divorce
Until 2017, Robert Barisford Brown, popularly known as Bobby Brown, was Whitney Houston’s husband. Born to Carole Elizabeth and Herbert James Brown on February 5, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, Brown admitted to being diagnosed with ADD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as a young boy and later with bipolar disorder in his early thirties.
Like Whitney Houston, he’s a lord in music, whose singing abilities were sharpened at the church choir. Though, this was after he watched James Brown, his childhood idol, perform in Boston.
Born to Brown’s construction worker father and substitute teacher were six other children, who probably didn’t grow up with him. Reports online have it that he was raised in Orchard Park Project, a popular three-story building that was razed to the ground due to crime-related issues.
As time moved on, Brown had his singing abilities fine-tuned and became a famous singer, songwriter, dancer and actor – many thanks to superstars Rick James, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Prince who were his major influences.
Then 26-year-old Whitney and 20-year-old Bobby first met in 1989 at the Soul Train Music Awards. After a spark of love and feeling between the two, Bobby proposed in 1991 and got married to the Newark-born songbird on July 18, 1992.
The couple had a blissful time together, including doing a hit single titled “Something in Common” until in September in 2006 when Whitney filed for divorce. They legally separated on April 24, 2007. Whitney also sold their Atlanta mansion which was featured on Brown’s reality TV program “Being Bobby Brown” for $1.2 million.
The superstars’ separation, as expected, was received with shock, especially by their teeming fans, who believed they would have taken the industry as a couple. But Brown wouldn’t have any of it, as it later emerged that the couple struggled with drug abuse, domestic violence, infidelity, and even jail time for Brown throughout their 14-year relationship.
Though Whitney initially managed the situation by keeping up with her career, it got the best of her in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Whitney would cancel scheduled interviews or show up late for shows appearing a shadow of herself.
More of her personal struggles were put in the limelight with the “Being Bobby Brown” reality show which was cancelled after airing for one season. Following intervention from her mother, she retired from music.
Brown and Whitney’s marriage ended with a child to show forth. His previous relationships with two other women produced three children. His first known relationship was with Melika Williams, who gave him Landon Brown on March 10, 1986. Brown and his second girlfriend, Kim Ward, had two children during their 14-year relationship. They are Bobby Jr (born 1992) and La’Princia (born 1989).
Two years after separating from his ex-wife, Whitney, Brown and his manager-turned wife, Alicia Etheredge, welcomed a son, Cassius Brown. The following year, being 2010, he proposed to Etheredge in Jacksonville, Florida and subsequently took her to the altar in 2012 in Hawaii.
Since after their wedding, the couple has welcomed two other lovely daughters – Bodhi Jameson Rein Brown (born on July 9, 2015) and Hendrix Estelle Sheba Brown (born on July 21, 2016).
Whitney Houston Daughter
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown welcomed their first and only child, Bobbi Kristina Brown in Livingston, New Jersey, United States, on March 4, 1993.
Unfortunately, Kristina Brown died in 2015 in the same manner as her mother. She was found immersed in her bathtub intoxicated and unresponsive. She died 7 months later on July 26, 2015, in hospice care. Autopsy results showed she died from lobar pneumonia, which was induced by immersion and drug overdose.
Following Kristina’s death, her family filed a lawsuit against her boyfriend Nick Gordon who was later found legally responsible for her death after failing to appear for two hearings. However, Gordon denied any wrongdoing.
Kristina’s first taste of spotlight as a child was in 1994 at the American Music Award, where she took to the stage with her mother. Prior to her death, she sang along with her mother in several albums and songs, including One Wish: The Holiday Album (2003), My “Love Is Your Love”.
Was Whitney Houston Gay?
Sometime in 2017, rumors about Houston’s sexuality and her long-rumored secret love affair with her childhood friend and assistant, Robyn Crawford resurfaced in a documentary titled Whitney: Can I Be Me.
In addition to her personal details and struggle with drugs, the documentary, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, never-seen-video-footage of the singer taken both on and off the stage were all brought to light.
Robyn and Whitney have been friends for so many years after meeting in East Orange, New Jersey, in their teen ages. They carried on the relationship until the singer married Bobby Brown.
Crawford, however, separated from her childhood friend when she couldn’t stand the heat coming from all quarters, including the media.
Prior to her exit after the songstress’ My Love is Your Love World Tour in 1999, it was alleged that Robyn sought for Whitney’s attention, to the point that it impacted the singer’s marriage. After Houston’s tour and Robyn’s departure, the singer began to record downfalls in her career. This was because the latter was reportedly the person who kept pushing her up.
While many believe that the ‘inseparable friends’ had something in common at the time, Whitney’s former stylist Ellin Lavar believes otherwise. Lavar reportedly affirmed that the singer was not gay but bisexual, who found safety and solace in Robyn Crawford.
In her divorce filing, Whitney revealed that she was $4 million in debt, had a life insurance worth $300,000, cash of $40,000 and $225,000 in stock. In summary, she had $10 million worth of assets with a total debt of $4 million bringing her net worth at the time to $6 million. Obviously, she had blown away multi-millions.
Whitney’s life and career appeared to be going smoothly in 2009, the same year she admitted in an Oprah interview to abusing alcohol and drugs. She released her 7th studio album “I Look to You” which also became her last in 2009. To support the album she embarked on “Nothing but Love World Tour” which grossed over $36 million worldwide.
Whitney Houston Death
Legendary singer Whitney Houston died tragically on February 11, 2012, at the age of 48. Prior to her death, she had lodged at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, where she rendered “Jesus Loves Me” and also performed along with Kelly Price on February 9th. She also had a nice time, on the same day, with Brandy, Monica and Clive Davis, who were cooking up some songs in preparation for Clive’s pre-Grammy Awards party.
On the day of her death, she was found unconscious and immersed in the hotel’s bathtub. She was declared dead on the same day after a Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by the hotel’s medical failed to restart her heart.
Her autopsy results released the following month indicated that Houston accidentally died from drug intoxication. She was said to have used illegal drugs (including cocaine) shortly before she passed away. The songstress was laid to rest beside her father at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield on February 18, 2012.
While Whitney appeared to have everything under control with upcoming projects including movie “Sparkle” of which she received advance payments, her tragic death on February 11, 2012, revealed otherwise. She was found dead in a bathtub in her Beverly Hills hotel room as a result of drowning from a drug overdose.
At the time of her death, Whitney owed $20 million to Arista records as she was unable to fulfill her end of the $100 million deal they signed back in 2001 when she agreed to record 6 more albums. Whitney recorded just three albums that made $20 million putting her in debt of $20 million as she had already received an upfront payment of $40 million.
Thanks to the posthumous sales of her album and earnings from the Sparkle film which grossed over $101 million, Whitney’s estate was able to make $40 million. Her debts were paid off while the remaining $20 million was inherited by her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Whitney’s estate (of which Kristina spent approximately 10%) is now left to the benefit of her mother Cissy Houston and her two brothers, Michael Houston and Gary Garland.
Whitney Houston’s Net Worth
At the time of her death, it was estimated that the “I Will Always Love You” star who sold over 200 million records was nearly broke and had a little under $30,000 in her bank account.
Also, it was estimated that her total assets at the time were worth $6 million. When the six-time Grammy winner died in 2012, her earnings stood at $20 million. However, after her death, her posthumous earnings skyrocketed to about $40 million.