Whit­ney Hous­ton

Newsweek - - Newsweek - PART­ING SHOT

for much of her young life, whit­ney hous­ton was fa­mous for one thing: her voice, the most glo­ri­ous in ’80s pop mu­sic, im­mor­tal­ized in mas­sive hits like “I Wanna to Dance With Some­body” and “I Will Al­ways Love You.” But with her mar­riage to Bobby Brown in 1992 came a steep de­cline. Now, she was bet­ter known for their train wreck of a re­la­tion­ship and an in­tractable drug ad­dic­tion that even­tu­ally led to her death: At 48, she ac­ci­den­tally drowned in a ho­tel bath­tub. Scot­tish direc­tor Kevin Macdon­ald hopes to re­store Hous­ton’s rep­u­ta­tion with his new doc­u­men­tary, Whit­ney, “a se­ri­ous film,” he says, “about some­body peo­ple don’t take se­ri­ously any­more.” Macdon­ald made one star­tling rev­e­la­tion, weeks be­fore he fin­ished the film: As a child, Hous­ton was sex­u­ally abused by her cousin, Dee Dee War­wick, the late sis­ter of singer Dionne War­wick. “It’s not the one thing that ex­plains Whit­ney—it’s not one thing that ex­plains any­one—but an aw­ful lot of pieces of her psy­chol­ogy fall into place when you learn that,” says Macdon­ald, who spoke to Newsweek about Hous­ton’s har­row­ing se­cret. Did you sus­pect there was abuse in Hous­ton’s past?

Not to be­gin with. But af­ter watch­ing Whit­ney on screen ev­ery day for days on end, I be­gan to feel there was some­thing awk­ward about her in in­ter­views. She seemed un­com­fort­able in her own skin, and that man­ner was fa­mil­iar to me from peo­ple I’d met who had suf­fered trauma as a child. In one in­ter­view, in the ɿlm, she talks about how she hates child abuse more than any­thing. I thought, Why is she on about this? Is there some­thing in her past?

How did it come out dur­ing ɿlm­ing? I was talk­ing to her brother, Gary, about his strug­gles with ad­dic­tion: Was there some­thing psy­cho­log­i­cal at the root of it? He said it was be­ing abused by a fe­male rel­a­tive. Then it slowly came out that that per­son had also abused Whit­ney.

“A lot of pieces of her psy­chol­ogy fall into place when you learn [ she was abused ] .”

The use of sex­ual abuse as a plot twist has been crit­i­cized. Are you con­cerned about that?

It is a plot de­vice, I sup­pose, but it’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive of my process. It’s at the end of the ɿlm, which im­i­tates the way I came across this in­for­ma­tion—it wasn’t what I set out to ɿnd. It also al­lows the au­di­ence to be­gin with the pos­i­tive. My in­ten­tion is to cel­e­brate Whit­ney. She didn’t write her songs, but she had an ex­traor­di­nary power that went straight to your heart. Maybe af­ter see­ing the ɿlm you’ll lis­ten to her dif­fer­ently and ap­pre­ci­ate what she achieved. —Anna Menta

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