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Also Known As: Whitney Elizabeth Houston, Whitney Houston-Brown, Nippy Houston Died: February 11, 2012
Born: August 9, 1963 Cause of Death: Accidental Drowning, Drug Overdose
Birth Place: Newark, New Jersey, USA Profession: singer, actor, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A gifted R&B-pop-gospel singer possessing the most astonishing vocal range since Barbara Streisand, the model-turned-songstress Whitney Houston hit the scene in a big way in 1985, successfully alternating danceable mainstream pop with plush ballads on her self-titled debut album. Over a short period, she became one of the most successful female solo artists in the history of recorded music. No slouch in the acting department, Houston had the looks and talent for the big screen as well. Without question, she made her biggest onscreen splash as the damsel-in-distress in the iconic romantic-drama, "The Bodyguard" (1992) opposite Kevin Costner. She would later draw favorable reviews for other memorable films, including "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) and the "Preacher's Wife" (1996), but it was impossible to top the success of her freshman film effort and its seemingly omnipresent song, "I Will Always Love You." Unfortunately, a decade later, things began going downhill for Houston, with rumors of drug abuse, cancelled stage appearances and overall chaos reigning between the singer and her husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown. Following her divorce from Brown and a period of seclusion, she attempted a comeback...

A gifted R&B-pop-gospel singer possessing the most astonishing vocal range since Barbara Streisand, the model-turned-songstress Whitney Houston hit the scene in a big way in 1985, successfully alternating danceable mainstream pop with plush ballads on her self-titled debut album. Over a short period, she became one of the most successful female solo artists in the history of recorded music. No slouch in the acting department, Houston had the looks and talent for the big screen as well. Without question, she made her biggest onscreen splash as the damsel-in-distress in the iconic romantic-drama, "The Bodyguard" (1992) opposite Kevin Costner. She would later draw favorable reviews for other memorable films, including "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) and the "Preacher's Wife" (1996), but it was impossible to top the success of her freshman film effort and its seemingly omnipresent song, "I Will Always Love You." Unfortunately, a decade later, things began going downhill for Houston, with rumors of drug abuse, cancelled stage appearances and overall chaos reigning between the singer and her husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown. Following her divorce from Brown and a period of seclusion, she attempted a comeback with a new album in 2009 and world tour in 2010. Houston's return to outpatient rehab a year later suggested the struggling diva had more work to do on herself. Despite setbacks, fans remained devoted to Houston and waited for a comeback that never came. On Feb. 11, 2012, the beloved singer passed away at age 48, shocking the public and the music industry who were gathered that weekend to celebrate the Grammy Awards.

Born Aug. 9, 1963 in East Orange, NJ to her father, John, and her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston. The baby girl received additional luster to her musical pedigree by being first cousin to famed pop vocalist Dionne Warwick and goddaughter to Aretha Franklin. At age 11, Houston started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist church in Newark and would later go on to accompany her mother in concert. After singing background on her mother's 1978 album Think It Over, she started as a back-up singer for many other established acts, such as Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and Lou Rawls. In the early 1980s, she joined the famed Wilhelmina Agency and started appearing as a fashion model in various magazine advertisements and snagged the cover of Seventeen magazine.

Though music had played a consistent part in her life, she had yet to really make things happen for her in a big way. Fortunately fate stepped in when an Arista Records executive caught Houston performing onstage with her mother in 1983 and was so impressed, he lobbied for the head of the label, music impresario Clive Davis to come check her out. She was immediately signed to a worldwide contract and released her first hit album, Whitney Houston, two years later. With the success of four singles - three of which went to No. 1 on Billboard's pop chart - "You Give Good Love," "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know" and "Greatest Love of All" - a star was indeed born. Both with her self-titled debut, its 1987 follow-up album, Whitney, and her recording of the 1988 Olympics theme song, "One Moment in Time," Houston was showered with awards, including several Grammys and American Music Awards - even an Emmy. Her fresh-faced beauty began popping up everywhere, most famously while singing the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, which was later released as a single and received a push in sales, following the country going to war with Iraq at that time. She also paid tribute to among others, her mother, as well as such varied celebs as Nelson Mandela, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra and Mickey Mouse on various TV specials. Her performance at a 1994 concert in Johannesburg, South Africa, was broadcast on HBO.

With all her work on her own music, Houston also provided songs for the films "Perfect" (1985) and "School for Vandals" (1986), but did not make her acting debut until her much-ballyhooed starring role as a singer in the midst of an interracial romance with her hired protector (Kevin Costner) in the extremely popular film, "The Bodyguard" (1992). The film itself helped catapult its award-winning single, "I Will Always Love You" to the stratosphere, becoming her signature song from that moment on. With the success of "Bodyguard," she began landing roles in other films, including her second role as one of the "girlfriends" in the 1995 adaptation of Terry McMillan's novel, "Waiting to Exhale." As Savannah Johnson, Houston portrayed one of four black career women in Phoenix trying to come to terms with friendship and romance. She followed this up with a co-starring role opposite Denzel Washington in Penny Marshall's fantasy "The Preacher's Wife" (1996), a remake of the 1947 Loretta Young-Cary Grant vehicle, "The Bishop's Wife." The following year, Houston graced the small screen as the fairy godmother in the TV movie remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (ABC), attracting a record-breaking television audience of over 60 million U.S. viewers. The fairy tale film went on to win an Emmy Award and to hold the record of the highest selling video of a made-for-TV film.

Though fans did not realize it at the time, Houston's career, like Cinderella's gilded coach, was about to turn into a pumpkin. The TV movie marked Houston's last foray into acting, aside from a brief appearance as herself in a 2003 episode of the Fox high school drama, "Boston Public" (2000-04). Aside from an array of musical performances on various televised specials - including on the 1999 Academy Awards, the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, the inaugural 2001 BET Awards, and the 2002 and 2003 VH1 "Divas Live" broadcasts - Houston largely retreated from the spotlight following the 1999 release of her fourth album My Love Is Your Love. She did however, work behind the scenes as a producer of the hit film "The Princess Diaries" (2001) and provided a tune for the soundtrack, as well.

By the dawn of the new millennium, however, things were changing for Whitney Houston and the public could not help but notice. She would unwillingly resurface in tabloid headlines, following one of the many arrests faced by her troubled husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, whom she had married on July 18, 1992. Often Houston would be included in Brown's dramas, or eclipse them with her own, such as when in 2000, Hawaiian security guards discovered half an ounce of marijuana in her baggage. That same year, she was dropped from the Academy Awards telecast - officially, due to a sore throat - but reputedly due to a poor rehearsal performance, which resulted in singer Faith Hill stepping in at the last minute to replace her. At one point, the troubled singer was even erroneously reported deceased, sparking rumors that the couple's speculated drug use had finally done her in. Things only seemed to get worse for the once pristine-pop princess, when her own father sued her for $100 million for breach of contract, which was later thrown out of court.

Trying to stifle the naysayers, Houston unwisely granted an interview to "Primetime Live" (ABC, 1989- ) shortly before the December 2002 release of her fifth studio album,Just Whitney. In one of most uncomfortable, unfiltered and ill-advised interviews ever given by a celebrity, Houston croaked through the Q&A with a hoarse voice, looking exhausted, as she confessed to Diane Sawyer that, yes, she had abused drugs in the past - including marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and pills - but that she had beaten her addictions through prayer. She ended her confessions with her oft-quoted, much-maligned comment, "Crack is whack" and that she was "too rich to do crack." As her husband sat, sweating profusely on the sidelines, she also defensively claimed to be the one doing the hitting in the couple's relationship after Sawyer pushed for information on Brown's reported spousal abuse arrests. It went without saying that the interview was the water cooler topic du jour. Not surprisingly to some, a year after the interview, police responded to a domestic violence call made by the singer against her husband, and found Houston with a cut upper lip and a bruised cheek. Within three months, she checked into a rehab center but abruptly left within weeks. A year later, Houston was court ordered to check into Crossroads, a drug rehabilitation clinic in Antigua, West Indies, founded by guitar icon Eric Clapton. Despite their apparently tumultuous union, Houston and Brown remained together and continued to present a united front through the years of headlines. While she had seemed to withdraw willingly from the spotlight, Brown's career had remained stalled in his heyday of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In a bid to recapture his fame, Brown opted for life as a reality TV star in "Being Bobby Brown" (Bravo, 2005), in which Houston and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, also appeared. The show was so shocking - from the couple's random fits of singing in public, to their gluttonous ordering of food at restaurants, to their constant fighting in front of the children - that viewers were transfixed as if watching a car accident in slow motion. Seeing the raw Houston hollering "Aah, hell-to-the-NO!" on a regular basis did amuse some, who were happy to see her sense of humor still intact, as well as her still luminous beauty. However, most agreed the show did her career no favors. After much speculation of a second season, it never materialized and little reason was given by those involved. Some questioned whether the next round of bad Houston press had something to do with the decision. In early 2006, Brown's sister released damning photos to of her Houston's alleged in-home "crack" den, as well as grim details of the singer's then on-going battle with hard-core drug addictions. After years of Houston fans blaming bad-boy Brown for causing their favorite singer's fall from grace, the couple announced their separation in September 2006. The divorce was finalized in April 2007.

After a long road back, Houston began working closely with her longtime mentor Clive Davis again, resulting in her long-awaited comeback album, I Look to You, which was released at summer's end, 2009. Greatly hyped with an appearance on "Good Morning America," which raised some eyebrows for airing the performance as a pre-taped segment, as well as for the hoarse voice and odd behavior she exhibited onstage. All of this was nothing compared to the heavy promotions of her also pre-taped interview with Oprah Winfrey on her season's premiere episode. The pressure was on for Houston to come back in a big way, but the question seemed to remain - was she up to it after all the lost years? Fans certainly hoped so as once again, they stood behind their favorite diva. Unfortunately, she gave a series of uneven performances in support of the album, both in the States and overseas, including appearances on the U.K.'s "X Factor" (2004- ) and "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ). Houston later embarked on a world tour, the "Nothing But Love Tour," which was universally panned, with disappointed fans often walking out or appearances being cancelled altogether due to her various illnesses.

After a series of even more lackluster performances, Houston checked into rehab again in May 2011. Seemingly back on track, she finished filming a long-gestating project she had been shepherding for years, a remake of the 1976 film, "Sparkle," co-starring Jordin Sparks of "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) fame. Shockingly, Houston passed away on Feb. 11, 2012 at age 48 during Grammy weekend, the same day of her longtime supporter Davis' pre-Grammy party. She had been found submerged in the bathtub inside her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where Davis' party was being held later that night. Houston's death cast a pall over the actual ceremony, which paid tribute to her with a heartfelt performance from Jennifer Hudson who performed Houston's signature song, "I Will Always Love You." In the wake of Bobbi Kristina's two trips to the hospital for "extreme anxiety" following her mother's death and Bobby Brown's trip to L.A. to be with his daughter, Houston's body was returned to Newark for a private burial. Weeks after the televised ceremony, Houston's cause of death was announced: accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine being contributing factors.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Sparkle (2012)
2.
 Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997) Fairy Godmother
3.
 Scratch the Surface (1997) Herself
4.
 Preacher's Wife, The (1996) Julia Biggs
5.
 Waiting to Exhale (1995) Savannah Jackson
7.
 The Bodyguard (1992) Rachel Marron
8.
 VH1 Divas Duets (2003)
9.
 Primetime Special Edition: Whitney Houston (2002) Featuring Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1974:
Began singing at age 11 in her mother's choir (date approximate)
1978:
Worked as a background vocalist for singers Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls, beginning at age 15 (date approximate)
1981:
Appeared on the cover of several magazines at age 18; also sang a duet with Teddy Pendergrass, "Hold Me" (date approximate)
1983:
Signed to a recording contract by Clive Davis of Arista Records at age 19
1985:
Made professional solo performance debut at the New York nightclub "Sweetwater's"
1985:
Performed the song "Shock Me," for the film "Perfect"
1985:
Released debut album <i>Whitney Houston</i>; sold over 13 million copies, making it the best-selling debut ever by a female artist
1986:
Performed the song "The Greatest Love of All" for the film "School for Vandals"
1987:
Second album <i>Whitney</i> debuted at the top of the pop charts, the first time ever for a female solo act
1992:
Made feature film acting debut in "The Bodyguard," a romantic drama with Kevin Costner; re-recorded the Dolly Parton song "I Will Always Love You" for the soundtrack
1995:
Co-starred in the ensemble drama "Waiting to Exhale" and contributed the single "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" to the soundtrack
1995:
Starred alongside Denzel Washington in "The Preacher's Wife" and received Grammy Award nominations for the album's soundtrack, which featured traditional and contemporary gospel songs
:
Formed Houston Productions
1996:
Houston Productions signed two-year, non-exclusive first look deal with Touchstone Pictures
1997:
Co-executive produced and starred in an updated TV remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (ABC); played the Fairy Godmother to Brandy's Cinderella
1998:
Collaborated with Mariah Carey on the single "When You Believe" for the animated film "The Prince of Egypt"
1998:
Released first album in eight years <i>My Love Is Your Love</i>; collaborated with Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Q-Tip
2000:
Arrested in Hawaii when airline authorities reportedly found marijuana in her luggage (charges later dismissed)
2000:
Dropped from the Academy Awards telecast officially because of a sore throat, but reportedly due to poor rehearsals
2000:
Released the two-disc compilation <i>Greatest Hits</i>, which featured one disc of hits and one of remixes; included duets with Enrique Iglesias, George Michael, and Deborah Cox
2001:
Served as a producer of the Disney film "The Princess Diaries"
2001:
Signed exclusive long-term contract with Arista Records worth a reported $100 million
2002:
Sued for $100 million by her father's entertainment company for breach of contract; lawsuit later thrown out by a superior court judge
2002:
Admitted to Diane Sawyer on the ABC news program "Primetime Live" that she abused marijuana, cocaine and alcohol
2004:
Checked into a drug rehab center, but checked out within a week
2005:
Under orders from Fulton County probate court, was taken to Crossroads, a drug rehabilitation clinic in Antigua, West Indies founded by Eric Clapton
2005:
Appeared alongside husband Bobby Brown and family on the Bravo reality series "Being Bobby Brown"; couple filed for divorce the following year
2009:
Gave first interview in seven years on season premiere of "The Oprah Winfrey Show"
2009:
Released comeback album <i>I Look to You</i>; entered <i>Billboard</i> albums chart at No. 1
2012:
Final film appearance, a remake of the 1976 drama "Sparkle" opposite Jordan Sparks; released posthumously
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Houston has also won 11 American Music Awards

She is a recipient of a honorary doctorate degree in humanities from Grambling University.

"The press won't let me be a regular person. It used to hurt me really badly. Because I'm a true-to-myself person. I was raised that way. I don't live lies. It was hard to accept, because you go out in the public and people watch what you do. Now I know it's a commodity, a business, for them. ... To me, our society is very weird about what they get off on." --Whitney Houston quoted in New York Post, December 14, 1995

In October 2002, Whitney Houston's dad's company sues her for $100 million. John Houston Entertainment claims the singer owes management fees for helping sort out her legal troubles during her pot bust and helping negotiate her nine-figure record contract

In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer which aired in December 2002, Houston admitted to abusing drugs--including marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and pills--in her past but claimed she had beaten her addictions through prayer

In December 2003, Police considered whether to pursue charges against singer Bobby Brown, after officers responded to a domestic abuse call by his wife Whitney Houston. When officers arrived at the couple's home they found Houston with a cut upper lip and a bruised cheek.

Whitney Houston entered a drug rehab clinic at an undisclosed facility, March 15, 2003.

On March 23, 2005, it was reported than year after her first reported stay in rehab, Whitney Houston again checked into a rehabilitation facility.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Bobby Brown. Singer. Born c. 1969; began career with the teen singing group New Edition; had hit solo albums with "Don't Be Cruel" and "Bobby"; had three children born out of wedlock to two other women prior to marrying Houston; met in 1989; married July 18, 1992; couple admitted to marital problems in September 1995; reportedly separated in June 1998; have since reunited.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John R Houston. Manager. Houston's business manager and CEO of her company, Nippy Inc. (named for Whitney's childhood nickname); died on February 2, 2003 from diabetes and heart disease.
mother:
Cissy Houston. Singer.
cousin:
Dionne Warwick. Singer.
brother:
Gary Garland Houston. Singer. Arrested for possesion of drugs in March 1996.
brother:
Michael Houston. Arrested on drug charges in August 2001.
sister-in-law:
Donna Houston. Runs The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children.
daughter:
Bobbie Christina Brown. Born in March 1993; father Bobby Brown.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Good Girl, Bad Girl" Birch Lane Press

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