Why we refused to help Whitney

By | February 20, 2012

The first time I heard Whitney Houston sing, I was mesmerized.

Having survived a lot of crappy music in 1985 and missing actual singing, I was beyond thrilled the day I first heard, “Saving All My Love”. Being seventeen and not truly understanding the way the world and the vicious machine known as pop culture works, I remember feeling as if true talent had made a serious comeback.

She was young, beautiful,could sing her ass off and was on her way to true superstardom and wealth beyond anything any one of us or her famous family lineage could have imagined.

But what would be her eventual downfall would not be drugs or a ridiculous husband. Instead, she would be taken down by the same thing that plagues us all. Crippling low self esteem and the inability to ascertain the help and resources to defeat these forces would eventually lead to an early death.

I have often wondered and stated aloud my confusion and pure disbelief that people who have access to so much have so little emotional resource and coping skills.

This is the real problem that me as a fan and the people who know and enjoy worshiping at the throne of celebrity have created and would rather die than give up. On many levels, we have been lulled into believing that if a person is talented, famous and gorgeous that they either have no problems or should at least shut up about them because we want their “gifts”.

We want them to share their talent and a part of this “sharing” is that the person doing the giving continue to give no matter the costs.

Nobody wants to think that you can have “the world” and still not be satisfied.

Nobody wants to think that you can be famous and wealthy and have low self esteem, self doubt or even question whether or not you think you deserve such gifts and or praise.

As humans, we want the great opiate that is fame and fortune.

We rarely long for the gift of self actualization.

We rarely want anyone to be anything but what we’ve decided that they are. Perhaps this was the problem.

Whitney could never win over her demons (self imposed or not) because there were too many people needing her to stay fucked up so that they could maintain their lifestyles.

Where were her sister friends and people who truly had nothing to benefit from her remaining unhealthy ?

A work colleague recently pointed out what generally happens when an individual makes self healing and improvement a priority. You often will have to go it alone.

Post being booed at the Soul Train Awards, why did the divas who long ago crossed over and have learned to deal with the tricky landmine that is overwhelming success and love of white fans not come a running ? A quick call from Earth or Diana or Tina could have been all the salve she needed to persevere.

As a black artist, I have had to also learn to navigate a world that only sees my possibilities for magic and excellence limited to sports and r&b. My heart weeps knowing what it feels like to be deemed “less than” by people you expect to both “know and do better”.

Nothing is more brutal than returning to the folks who initially loved you and then finding out that you have been ostracized(punished) for being too successful(white).

This is a hurt so awful it is rarely talked about.

Must we equate success with whiteness only ?

Why do we limit our gifted artists and force them to choose an allegiance to either their culture of origin or the new position they have been able to create given their level of talent and hard work.

We could have done more than just offer prayers.

Once again, the cult of celebrity seduced us all , myself included, into thinking that she would figure it out.

As participants in the miasma that is popular culture, we want to believe that artists should be able to succeed and yet can not wait for what all to often is the inevitable fall from grace.

We love the type of success that transforms humans into deities breathing rarefied air. We also love the very public spectacle of disaster and missteps that clearly states : you are one of us after all.

What a conundrum and recipe for disaster.

Trying to be one thing when you really are another or worse yet, not being allowed to express and be ok with all of your incongruities can make you wacky.

Perhaps she was a ghetto princess with the voice that didn’t fit well with that image. Perhaps, she was not of the ghetto at all. Maybe she was none of it or all of it (she did come around before the advent of “ghetto fabulousness”).

Does her pedigree matter or is this the marketing trolls sinister magic run amock?

2 thoughts on “Why we refused to help Whitney

  1. Dk

    That level of fame is not normal or healthy. It’s part of what destroyed MJ, it’s why Barbara Streisand didn’t sing live for decades, and I could go on. It must be even worse now with cell phone cameras, blogs and the Internet. Beyonce seems to be the latest target. I can’t imagine being treated like a cash cow on one hand and have everyone trying to pick your bones clean on the other.

  2. Byron Renty

    Thanks for the honest heartfelt article that asks real questions and being open to answers that may not be what you want to hear. I was a bad addict and got sober, so I have a different view than most. Nobody can get you sober but you. Drug addicts lie, so they lie to fans, the press, friends, family, managers, ect. Unless you can admit your problem and want to stop on your own, you won’t get sober. It’s hard for a celebrity to get sober because, the fans are telling you how great you are, your family is telling you how great you are, and the people around you are telling you how great you are, and your record company and your employees are telling you how great you are, and whoever, says different is fired or dismissed. look at M.J. or Amy Winehouse to name a couple. There is nothing anyone can tell you in a environment like that, be it your daughter or Tina Turner. Notice that she went to rehab multiple times and never lasted through the whole 3, or 6 months. Going to country club rehabs where you don’t have to go to groups or keep your cellphone so you can stay distracted doesn’t work either. And she walked out of those rehabs? She wasn’t serious about getting sober when you’re serious you stay and finish it. Been there, done that. Fans don’t really want to know how bad a stars addiction is cause they want to believe how bad their really doing, I put the video of a comparison of what Whitney sounded like in the 80’s and what she sounded like now before she died like this one http://youtu.be/X4f_hG-AiiI , people said I was being cruel and nobody wanted to acknowledge she clearly shouldn’t be performing and should be getting help. Why weren’t people asking “Why does her manager have her performing?” When does a paycheck outweigh a performers life? Then everybody wants to be surprised when she dies after partying the night before the Grammys. People think that if your on pills or alcohol it’s okay cause it’s not crack. If you’re an addict it doesn’t matter, but it does. Your addiction just jumps to whatever you’re using, and logic has nothing to do with it. M.J. had $100,00 worth of prescription drugs in his room and was taking an operating room narcotic to go to sleep, and that’s normal? Of course not! Whitney was on Zanex and who knows what else for depression, but when you try to treat a drug addict with more drugs, what sense does that make? But because of who they are they can get any drug from anywhere, at anytime. Plus your constantly being told how great you are by everyone around you and the fans, emotionally you are never really able to hit bottom. “Bottom” is a state of hopelessness you need to feel before you decide to make a change in your life, also known as “a moment of clarity”. The inner voice that says to us we can’t keep doing what we’re doing or we’ll die. There are thousands of celebrities that are in AA and NA that we don’t know about, and are clean and sober now. They had to ignore the fans, friends, and family that were telling them they didn’t need help and listened to that inner voice that told them they’ll die. Natalie Cole is one who I have great respect for because of what she’s been through, and there’s more people out there we don’t know about. Fans love the image of a celebrity and don’t want the reality of everyday life to disturb that image. People leave rehab because you have to stop lying to yourself and be brutally honest with yourself and face issues that you spent many years burying with drugs and alcohol, but you can’t bring yourself to look at it because then you would have to forgive, and learn another way to cope. It’s easier to hold on to a resentment, than to change your whole life and take responsibility for your actions and your life. I saw people walk out of rehab because someone had to face the reason they were using and couldn’t face their own emotions that they’ve spent years running away from. This isn’t easy, and not everyone will get it. The only thing we can take away from celebrity overdoses is that it might make someone get help. Maybe Linsay Lohan or a regular Joe says “I need help” because of it. But fans need to realize, the image and the reality are not the same, and they really don’t know the person they put on that pedestal. That the press releases and the press conferences are more about image than substance, and that it’s all done for a paycheck.


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