“Share my life, take me for what I am.”
I’ve been trying to write this for four days. On Saturday, the world watched as Whitney Houston’s family and friends celebrated her life with a beautiful homegoing service in a place where she always felt protected. New Hope Baptist Church’s pews were filled with not only famous friends but also those who knew Whitney Houston as Nippy, the tall beauty who grew up in New Jersey. We were reminded of something we all might have forgotten through her public struggles. Whitney Houston was a person with a soul, a mother, and daughter, a friend, a human being.
My introduction to Whitney Houston was in 1992 when “The Bodyguard” was released. I was then an eleven-year-old girl brown girl. Brown, in the sense that I was different and in the minority. Little girls have idols. You know those people you look to when you learn how to dream? Idols. Typically they share our gender and skin; if we’re lucky they also share our hopes. Whitney Houston was exactly that for me. To see this beautiful woman with a perfect smile held in such high esteem, on television and in magazines did everything that I needed. She was the first Brown woman I saw outside of my family who I recognized as beautiful. It’s as shallow and profound as that. She was an example of Brown beauty. I needed that. A lot of Brown little girls and women needed that.
Quite poetically Whitney Houston sang the words, “Share my life, take me for what I am,” while on a meteoric rise to the pedestal that some would relish later knocking her off. It wasn’t a title she lobbied for; she only wanted to sing. It was the media who wanted her to be their princess. Dancing with Kevin Costner on the big screen. On Clive Davis’ arm with a perfect, grateful smile. That’s who they wanted but she was never truly the media darling that the people behind the scenes manufactured. She was Nippy. And she gave us over twenty years of her talent and struggles. Like anybody else her wish was to be as human as everybody who called her name in adulation. To be loved through her faults and missteps. And held up when her strength failed.
We didn’t give her that. I say we because I’m guilty. I loved her while she reigned but I also felt the shame of her troubles when she stumbled. As though I had walked a perfect road all of my life. I was troubled by the stories that painted her as an erratic addict with no sense of who she’d once been. For my own conscience, I wanted Whitney Houston to be the songbird on a stage with a glamorous designer clothes singing without effort. That wasn’t my right. It wasn’t any of our rights.
And now, she’ll rest. All the unkind truths and words don’t follow her into peace. Because she didn’t really belong to us, or even to her family. She belongs to God and that’s where she has returned to.