WHIT­NEY HOUS­TON Shock­ing new de­tails about the trou­bled singer’s life.

A heav­enly voice, a haunted life, the su­per­star’s fam­ily and friends re­veal new de­tails about her trau­mas, tri­umphs and tragic end

WHO - - Contents - By Ja­nine Ruben­stein

On the set of a photo shoot in the early 2000s, star­ing hard at the woman in the mir­ror, Whit­ney Hous­ton was try­ing to get in touch with a realer, sim­pler, per­haps hap­pier ver­sion of her­self. “Nippy, are you in there?” she said, us­ing the nick­name her fam­ily gave her when she was a child. “Whit­ney call­ing Nippy, Whit­ney call­ing Nippy. She won’t an­swer,” Whit­ney said, turn­ing to the cam­era. “She’s re­ally be­ing non-co­op­er­a­tive to­day,” She of­fered a half­s­mile that quickly fell away.

It’s one of the many poignant scenes in the con­tro­ver­sial new doc­u­men­tary Whit­ney (out on July 26). In the six years since she was found dead in Los An­ge­les at the Beverly Hil­ton Ho­tel on Feb. 11, 2012, ques­tions still swirl about who Whit­ney Hous­ton—the beloved once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion voice be­hind record-break­ing hits like “I Will Al­ways Love You” and “Great­est Love of All”—re­ally was and why she couldn’t es­cape the ad­dic­tion that killed her.

In Whit­ney, di­rected by Kevin Mac­don­ald, the pop su­per­star’s fam­ily and friends (in­clud­ing her mother Cissy and broth­ers Gary and Michael) pull back the cur­tain, re­veal­ing sur­pris­ing se­crets. Some claim to know the root of her pain. Her long­time as­sis­tant, Mary Jones, says Whit­ney told her that her cousin Dee Dee War­wick (the sis­ter of singer Dionne War­wick) mo­lested her when she was a child. Whit­ney’s el­dest brother Gary re­veals he too was mo­lested by Dee Dee, who died in 2008. But Whit­ney’s mother Cissy Hous­ton, who was also in­ter­viewed for the doc­u­men­tary, is fir­ing back at the al­le­ga­tions. “We can­not over­state the shock and hor­ror we feel and the dif­fi­culty we have be­liev­ing that my niece Dee Dee War­rick ... mo­lested two of my three chil­dren,” Cissy tells WHO in a state­ment on be­half of her­self and Dionne, re­veal­ing they first learned of the claims two days be­fore the film’s May 16 pre­miere in Cannes. They are charges, she says, “nei­ther Whit­ney nor Dee Dee are here to deny, re­fute or af­firm ... How can that be fair to my daugh­ter ... to our fam­ily?” But to oth­ers who knew the singer, the rev­e­la­tion pro­vides yet an­other miss­ing piece to a very com­pli­cated puz­zle.

Whit­ney grew up in Ne­wark and East Orange, New Jersey, where she moved parish­ioners to tears when she sang at the New Hope Bap­tist Church. “She had a Cin­derella kind of warmth, this mag­i­cal way about her­self even as a lit­tle girl,” says brother Gary Hous­ton. Adds Ellen White, the fam­ily friend the Hous­tons called Aunt Bae, “We’d be play­ing pin­cole when Nippy was 5, 6, 7 years old. She’s be down in the base­ment with her mother’s wig and the mop as a mic, sing­ing at the top of her lungs. I al­ways felt that Nippy could sing, but I never an­tic­i­pated, never fath­omed Nippy would be Whit­ney Hous­ton.”

Yet mother Cissy’s ca­reer as a backup singer for stars such as Elvis and Aretha Franklin of­ten took her away from home and, as Gary ex­plains in the film, he, Michael and Whit­ney would be cared for by oth­ers: “We had a good, tight-knit fam­ily, but there were al­ways a lot of se­crets in our lives.”

Whit­ney’s per­sonal as­sis­tant Mary Jones says that Whit­ney told her she was mo­lested by her cousin Dee Dee War­rick, who was 21 years older than her. “I think she was ashamed,” Jones says in the film. “She used to say, ‘I won­der if I did some­thing to make her think I wanted her,’ and I’d say, ‘Stop it. Stop it. A preda­tor is a preda­tor.’” Gary claims in the doc­u­men­tary that Dee Dee mo­lested him be­tween the ages of 7 and 9 but he never heard it was hap­pen­ing to Whit­ney un­til now, and Jones says her in­ten­tion “was never to em­bar­rass any­one in the fam­ily but rather bring to light that Whit­ney was sub­jected to some­thing painful and trou­bling as a child. And it’s some­thing that hap­pens to other in­no­cent kids and goes un­spo­ken too much.”

Ellin Lavar, hair­styl­ist and friend, says such in­ci­dents would make sense and that when she had con­fided in Whit­ney things

“She said, ‘I wish I could go back to just sing­ing” —Rickey Mi­nor

that hap­pened to her, “I would come in and she would just hug me and bury her head in may chest and cry.”

By 1983, Whit­ney, then 19, had signed with Clive Davis, then head of Arista Records. With her 1985 de­but al­bum Whit­ney and seven con­sec­u­tive No. 1 sin­gles in the US, fame came fast and she brought her broth­ers along the ride to star­dom.

Michael re­calls in the film: “I re­mem­ber her putting me and my brother on the pay­roll when we didn’t even work for her at the time. I was us­ing drugs deeply then ... a lot of par­ties, a lot of chicks, a lot of drugs. You’re Whit­ney’s brother, so the doors were open. Whit­ney and I were very close ... we grad­u­ated from mar­i­juana to­gether. The age was prob­a­bly around 16.”

Fam­ily friend Keith Kel­ley ad­mits in the film that her gave her “a bag of weed and a lit­tle toke of co­caine” as a birth­day gift. Ex­plains friend and mu­sic direc­tor Rickey Mi­nor, “When you come from noth­ing, there’s a ten­dency to want to be the saviour. All your suc­cess and hard work is sprin­kled over your fam­ily. But you can’t have a suc­cess­ful busi­ness that way. She said. ‘I’m a cash cow. I wish I could go back to sing­ing just to sing.’”

As a young star, Whit­ney pub­licly dated men, though sev­eral peo­ple in her cir­cle also con­firm long­stand­ing ru­mours that her re­la­tion­ship with her fe­male best friend Robyn Craw­ford was also at one time ro­man­tic. (Craw­ford has pre­vi­ously de­nied the claims and did not par­tic­i­pate in the doc­u­men­tary). “I hope the film ex­presses what I think is the truth, that they were

ro­man­ti­cally in­volved,” says Whit­ney direc­tor Mac­don­ald. “Robyn loved Whit­ney,” says agent Ni­cole David. “She was also very young and prob­a­bly not equipped to with­stand the slings and ar­rows. Do I be­lieve it was a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship as well? I be­lieve it was.”

In the early days, a fam­ily source says, “Robyn felt like Nippy was maybe en­joy­ing drugs too much and so she went to Cissy, know­ing that Cissy didn’t feel Robyn was a suit­able com­pan­ion for her daugh­ter, and said, ‘I think Nippy is over­do­ing it, that con­cerns me.’ It took a lot of courage. She cared a great deal for Nippy.” (Cissy has said she does not know if Whit­ney and Robyn were ro­man­ti­cally in­volved.)

But Whit­ney went on to marry R&B star Bobby Brown in 1992, the same year she made her act­ing de­but in the megahit The Body­guard. Months later, they wel­comed daugh­ter Bobbi Kristina. “We from the hood,” says brother Michael in the film. “And Bobby was a black boy from the hood. He was the type my mother al­ways kept away from her.”

Friend Lavar says: “Part of me felt like she got mar­ried to please peo­ple ... The prob­lem with Whit­ney and Bobby was they ex­ac­er­bated each other’s ad­dic­tion. She did more co­caine, he drank more. But when they got to­gether, they both started do­ing more co­caine and drink­ing. It just man­i­fested it­self in a re­ally bad way.” In turn, it af­fected Whit­ney’s par­ent­ing. Bobbi Kristina “was ex­posed to a lot,” Lavar adds. “Even when Whit­ney had her house­warm­ing, some­one came up to me, ‘Oh, you want some co­caine?’ Her daugh­ter was there for all that. You could see that she was lonely.”

A few years be­fore her divorce from Brown in 2007, Whit­ney’s friends and fam­ily tried mul­ti­ple in­ter­ven­tions. “If you loved her and knew she needed help,” says sis­terin-law Pat Hous­ton, “you just needed to snatch her up ... I saw her in a lot of pain.”

In the end, the star’s ad­dic­tion, pain and in­se­cu­ri­ties were too much to over­come, and she died in 2012 at the age of 48. “I still go through griev­ing,” con­cedes brother Gary. “It’s hard for me to put into words how much I miss her. For three decades, I was able to travel the world with my sis­ter. I’m grate­ful. I wish she was here to speak for her­self.”

Hous­ton at home in East Orange, New Jersey, ca. 1982, and right, in 1995. “If I could,” says Clive Davis, “I would tell her, ‘I, along with mil­lions of oth­ers, deeply feel the pain that took your life, but your great­ness with for­ever in­spire.’”

“Her voice was like no other,” says mu­sic mogul Clive Davis. “It could soar with the great­est of all time.”

Whit­ney (mid­dle) posed with (from left) brother Gary, mum Cissy, dad John and brother Michael circa 1979.

Hous­ton’s as­sis­tant Mary Jones says that Whit­ney once told her she’d been mo­lested by her cousin Dee Dee War­rick (right).

ROCKY RO­MANCE Whit­ney Hous­ton wed Bobby Brown in 1992 (right) and gave birth to Bobbi Kristin­less than a year later. But their er­ratic be­hav­iour and his run-ins with the law be­came tabloid fod­der. Says friend Ellen Lavar, “It was a co-de­pen­dency.”

Hous­ton posed with (from left): Michael, Robyn Craw­ford, Gary and Ellen White.”robyn was her pro­tec­tor,” says Lavar.

Wed in 1992 (above), Hous­ton greeted Brown af­ter his 2000 re­lease from prison for pa­role vi­o­la­tions (left).

Trib­utes sur­rounded the Ne­wark, New Jersey, church for her 2012 fu­neral. “She faced chal­lenges in her life,” Cissy says now, “but she was not a vic­tim.”

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