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Whitney: A Retrospective! 1963-2012

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

February 12, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

Yes, I am a Whitney Houston Groupie! I've never really been a groupie, but she's the exception to the rule. I guess I was never into celebrities because at an early age I was hanging out with some of the most powerful African-Americans in politics. As a result, I always measured people on their own merits. Not because they were famous, but by their contribution to the world and how to some extent they handled their life; But I honestly fell in LOVE with Whitney from day one.

But truly, she has made me proud! Without a doubt Whitney's voice was a gift from God that she shared with the world. Being only a year older than her, I watched her blossom as the Queen of Pop. She was the first bona fide female African-American cross-over artist.

I remember those early days were tough on her. She received a lot of criticism for not being, "Black enough." I even remember her being booed at the Soul Train Awards. I didn't understand what was wrong with black folks. I mean did every black female artist have to fit into the category of and B or Gospel music? I didn't let their madness deter me. I was giddy that this young black woman had "crossed over." In time people seemed to join the band wagon. Who could deny her voice? She became the "golden girl."

When she appeared opposite Kevin Costner, an A list actor in The Body Guard, I knew she was Queen. Even so, there were critics. I mean, this was a black woman starring as the love interest of a white man. Some black folks wanted to know why he couldn't be black and some white folks wanted to know who the heck did she think she was? But she kept right on pushing. Not only was the movie a hit, but the sound track as well.

There was no stopping Whitney! None! Two more movies, Waiting to Exhale and The Preachers Wife made it clear that she was indeed an actress too. She seemed to be on top of the world and everyone wanted her personal life to parallel with her career/There were early rumors that she and one of her good friends were lovers and to dispel these rumors we started to see her more and more with men on her shoulders in public.

But most people were shocked when they saw Bobby Brown tagging along. I think many thought this golden girl was going through a rebellion period and eventually she would get Bobby out of her system. Ha, she married him. Then I think people starting praying that this marriage would end soon. Many felt she had no business with this bad boy, whose career had died long before their marriage. But Whitney fought back. It was them against the world! Whitney was out to prove that this was a marriage meant to be. That combined with her belief in marriage, she was determined to make it work.

At first her career continued to climb and Bobby seemed to make a mess of it all. People just couldn't understand why should stuck it out. In time we started to see her wither away before our eyes. There were rumors of drug use, then abuse, then addiction and everyone blamed Bobby. Who knows but the two of them and God if he was the one that started her down this path. What was clear to me, no matter how she got there, it wasn't as simple as people wanted to make it. Addiction is a real issue that requires a lot of work and based on everything I know about addiction, Bobby was only part of the problem.

My heart went out to her. I will never forget that Diane Sawyer interview. Most people were laughing at her quote, Crack is Whack," but I was stuck with something else she said, "Just continue to pray for me." That's exactly what I did! I prayed for her often. I understood that she was in a fight for her life. Addiction is cunning and relentless and I knew she would need all the prayer she could get. Each time I saw a picture of her looking less than what God created her to be, I was saddened and would pray harder.

I never gave up on Whitney! I believed that she would find her inner strength and conquer her demon. I didn't rightly care if she ever sang again, I just wanted her to be OK, at peace.

But I gotta be honest. No one was happier than me when she made her come back. I have never in my life purchased an album the first day of its release until, I Look to You! That album was wonderful!

Yeah, people had shit to say. "She's lost it," I heard a lot. And I wondered why people couldn't just be proud that she had kicked addiction long enough to pull herself together and be the Diva we knew her to be. I couldn't understand it. Nonetheless, I was proud! She looked better than ever! I loved the album and I thought I Didn't Know My Own Strength was powerful! It spoke to my circumstance but also to hers. It seemed like she was back, but addiction is cunning and I continued to pray.

As I reflect on Whitney, she was one hell of a woman! She was a fighter for sure. In those early days she stood proud against the nay sayers! Her talent was God given and she never quit singing. She was a fighter for sure.

She fought for her marriage until she started to drown with the ship, and like a warrior, she fought for her life and climbed out of that ship with her last breath and made it to dry land. She was a fighter for sure! She fought addiction in the public and that was no easy task in the face of Social Media.

People were cruel, but she kept pressing her way. Her comeback was a comeback for sure. Even in the face of addiction, once she was back, she was back and never stopped fighting She finished filming the remake of the movie Sparkle, just a year out of rehab. She was one hell of a woman. She never stopped fighting to be the woman God intended for her to be! I will forever be one of her biggest fans! Rest In Peace Whitney ... I Will ALWAYS Love you!!

Whitney was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Seventeen ... She was 16 or 17 years old.

My favorite Whitney Houston Song is, Tell Me No! It's been my ring tone for years ... She lived this!

I have always loved this AT&T commercial. No matter where I was or what I was doing in the house when it came on, I stopped and watched ... For Real.

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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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