I know everyone is reading story after story about the issues surrounding Whitney Houston and the demons that plagued her life, but I assure you, this is not going to be one of those. I did not know Whitney Houston personally, yet it feels so much like a family member has passed.
Today, on the day she is laid to rest, I want to speak on the way I will remember Whitney. When I was a little girl, White media still hadn’t accepted women of color as the beautiful, sexy role models that they do now. Black women were present but not prevalent in White mainstream media. But then…enter Miss Whitney Houston.
When she first started making the rounds on MTV, it was not as the diva you saw in later years. She was very soft looking. The first time I remember noticing this was in the video for “You Give Good Love”. She was a beautiful young, Black woman with the trademark mushroom hairdo so popular with us back then. With the soft makeup that truly accented her striking features, you could see this girl was different. She looked like women I knew, but yet there was something there, under the surface, and you could see that it was just waiting to be unleashed. This young woman was special. I was just a little girl, but even I could tell that.
As the next few years passed, little girls everywhere wanted to sing like Whitney, they wanted to be sparkly like Whitney, to be glamorous and sophisticated and classy like Whitney. She was seemingly bubbly and warm and when you heard her music and saw her videos and live performances you wanted to be just like that girl. She had arrived.
My goodness, how many times “How Will I Know” played over the years, depending on what boy I had a crush on at the time. Whitney’s lyrics always meant something to me. She didn’t just sing about jibberish like some artists. There was usually a deeper meaning there, even if it was as trivial as having a crush on someone, or as deep as “the children are our future.”
The Whitney I want to remember told me that the children were the future, and when I saw that video I was blown away. The makings of a diva. Not diva in the crass way people say it today, but diva as in a beautiful shining star that could never ever be the same person again. She was literally glowing in that video. I was about the age of the little girl in the video yet I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe not a singer, as I cannot sing a note, but I knew I wanted to be classy like that.
I remember my Mama trying to explain to me why I could not go around in a big, crazy looking tutu just because Whitney did it! You know what tutu I’m talking about, right? Yes, that big puffy monstrosity from the “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” video! I thought it was so cool, mostly because Whitney had it on! She influenced all sorts of fashion trends for an entire generation of girls.
See, to me, she embodied all the dreams that I used to have while sitting by my bedroom windowsill, looking out at my small, Midwestern town’s night lights. Because there was someone like Whitney, little girls who looked like me were able to dream not just privately, but eventually out loud. She broke down barriers for girls everywhere.
Whitney also took a lot of flack for the way she chose to do things, and yet, because of her and some others like her, we hardly ever use the word “crossover” anymore when describing Black and Brown successes in modern music. Acts like Beyonce and Rihanna are able to walk through the door into the pop arena because Whitney kicked the door in. I don’t ever want people to forget this. There may not have been makeup contracts for these ladies today, had the true beauty in Whitney not been allowed to shine.
She came to us like a hurricane. She started off soft and understated and then unleashed a furry of talent upon us that would span decades, through 25 Grammy nominations, six Grammy wins, and countless amazing hits. In fact, she won the most major awards of any female artist in music history. Her voice was a force stronger than almost anything we’ve ever known in nature, and now we are left with the devastation that her passing leaves behind.
I only hope that the various media outlets will remember her words as I do, “No Matter What They Take From Me, They Can’t Take Away My Dignity”, and leave our princess to rest with as much of her dignity in tact as humanly possible. None of us are perfect, and most of us get to lead our lives and make our mistakes privately. So I salute the Whitney that I grew up inspired by, and I will remember her for that gorgeous soul that she was, and for the voice that will send goosebumps and shivers down people’s spines forever. She will truly be missed.
Skyyhook is CEO/FOUNDER/General Manager of Skyyhook Radio and a contributor for AllHipHop.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SkyyhookRadio).