As a girl, Belinda Davids worshipped Whitney Houston, never guessing one day she’d travel the globe carrying the torch for the fallen star
Playing her idol on stage is more than just a gig for South African singer Belinda Davids. In fact it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that being Whitney Houston for a couple of hours a night is an almost sacred duty.
Her tribute show The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show comes to The Star Gold Coast, this weekend and features Davids singing Houston’s greatest hits.
Last year Davids, 41, was crowned winner of BBC1’s Even Better Than The Real Thing, a show that pitted the world’s top tribute acts against each other.
On the strength of that she has a forthcoming tour of the UK but right now she’s touring Australia, for the second time.
The first, in 2015, was bittersweet because Houston’s own Australian tour, towards the end of her career, had been a bit of a disaster. At her Brisbane concert in February 2010 the superstar was described as “breathless, shambolic and out of control”.
Two years later, on February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in her Los Angels hotel room. The coroner’s report showed she had accidentally drowned in the bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors.
“The first time I came here I thought ‘I have to restore her name in Australia’,” Davids says. “It was a dreadfully difficult time when she was here; she was right at the end of it all. It was really sad.”
On Davids’ first tour here, audiences were amazed at the purity of her voice. Watch her singing on YouTube and you will be gobsmacked by her talent. When she’s onstage singing songs such as Dance With Somebody or Greatest Love of All, she becomes Houston, and it would be spooky if it wasn’t so moving.
As a young girl in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Davids listened to Houston daily. “I was eight years old when I discovered her, and I’m not making this up,” she says. “But I never saw her perform. I hardly saw anyone because we grew up poor.”
Without formal vocal training, Davids started singing professionally when she was 12. It was when she hit the club circuit in her home country that people began to notice how much she sounded like Houston.
She opened shows for many international acts visiting South Africa and in 2014 began performing as Houston after she was cast following a global audition of 15,000 would-be Whitneys.
“For me it’s an emotional tribute,” Davids says. I’m not trying to be Whitney Houston. I’m paying tribute to her.”
Davids is booked through to 2020, meaning she’s on the road a lot and away from her two sons back in Cape Town, where she now lives. The Greatest Love of All – The Whitney Houston Show, this Saturday at The Star Gold Coast. Tickets at star.com.au
Catch Belinda Davids’ uncanny tribute show to Whitney Houston at The Star Gold Coast.