Words cannot even begin to express how stunned and devastated I felt the moment I heard of Whitney Houston’s passing. My very first thoughts were, “Please God, let this be one of those unfounded rumors on Twitter.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t a rumor gone wild.
As a little girl, there was no bigger star and no greater musical icon TO ME than Whitney Houston. Memories of her music form the center of some of my fondest moments from childhood. This blog post represents my written tribute to everything she meant to me.
My dad was something like a music enthusiast. He had stacks and stacks and stacks of records, but those Whitney Houston records? Those were OURS – me and my sister’s. We would spend HOURS on the weekend just listening to her music, pretending we were her, memorizing every word, every lyric, every song from start to finish.
Whitney was unbelievably gorgeous. Her amazing voice was unmatched. There are VERY few singers who can do justice to a Whitney Houston record – then and since. My ten-year-old self sang with unrepentant pride when she performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl in 1991. So proud we were that at my elementary school, Whitney’s version BECAME our new “Star Spangled Banner.”
Whitney’s silver screen debut in “The Bodyguard” was the first R-rated movie that my parents allowed me and my sisters to see. We wanted to see it only because she was in it. Sometime during middle school, given the assignment to write one of those “what I wanna be when I grow up” papers, I wrote that I wanted to be the next big songwriter to write a huge hit like “Run To You.”
Remember the controversy surrounding “Waiting To Exhale” and its depiction of African American men? Well, I wanted to see that movie *only* because Whitney was in it. I didn’t get a chance to see it until I was an adult – Daddy wasn’t having it – but I bought the soundtrack the very first chance I could and wore that CD out!
All throughout my childhood years, my parents kept a running subscription to magazines like Jet, Ebony, and Essence where their little girls could see photos of African American women as beauty icons. If I came across a magazine cover with Whitney on the front, you can bet your bottom dollar that I read the feature story from front to back and then back to front again.
Whitney Houston’s persona represented the absolute epitome of style and grace and glamour. I cannot even overstate how her celebrity was such a HUGE part of my formative years. She represented EVERYTHING this little Black girl wanted and hoped she would grow up to be – she had beauty, talent, and unspeakable success.
Whitney’s music represented hope to the little Black girl that I was. I remember amazing ballads like “Greatest Love of All” and “Miracle” and “One Moment In Time” and “I Believe In You and Me.” I remember belting these songs out as if the future of MY tomorrow hung on each and every last note.
Needless to say, this afternoon, I was completely caught off-guard by the raw emotions of sadness and devastation that I felt upon hearing of Whitney’s death. Tears dropped from my eyes when I posted this message to my Facebook wall:
I feel so SOUL HURT by the news of Whitney Houston’s death. I almost feel like I lost someone close and near and dear to me. She was an icon to me as a little girl. I will forever have memories of singing along to her songs with my sisters. RIP Whitney Houston.
Around the same time, my sister posted to my wall:
I feel like Daddy did when David Ruffin died and he made us listen to all of his songs that night. Remember??? I’m making Shamiria dance to all Whitney.
I do indeed remember that day. Remember all those records my dad had? I remember growing up listening to old Temptations records as well. As a little girl, I had no clue of how he might have felt that day when David Ruffin died, but I have some inkling now.
Shamiria is my one-year-old niece. She won’t remember this day. I almost fear she won’t know anyone her contemporary of Whitney’s vocal caliber. I posted in reply to my sister that we have to make sure that she grows up knowing who Whitney is. And when I have children someday, they will also know Whitney Houston.
I want to remember Whitney as I did as a little girl. I almost feel like I grew up with Whitney Houston – that’s how huge of an impact she had on me and millions of little girls like me. Whitney gave one of her very last interviews on the final season of the Oprah show. Oprah described Whitney in the interview as living is the minds of millions as “America’s first Black princess.” This is how I choose to remember her. Forever and ever she will live in my heart.
I love you, Whitney. Rest in peace.