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?