On the night before the 2012 Grammy Awards, fans were stunned and heartbroken when they learned that Whitney Houston had just died in her hotel bathtub in Beverly Hills. Apart from the shock of the news, the cause of death (drowning, heart disease, and drug use combined) wasn’t all that surprising… considering the life the diva lived.
Her life was far from ideal, despite her incredible success in the music industry. Existence for Houston was filled with tragedy, addiction, tumultuous relationships, and both the positive and negative side of fame. And as it turns out, there was more to Houston’s private life than any of us knew…
Her Assistant Reveals Their Big Secret
Not too long ago (in 2019), the truth came out about what really went on behind the scenes of Houston’s and her former assistant’s relationship. Robyn Crawford, who worked with Houston for 20 years, came clean about their hidden affair.
Crawford wrote a tell-all called A Song for You, which is essentially a story of two women who kept their intimate relationship a secret. As a result, Crawford was criticized and (allegedly) threatened violently by the singer’s family. Choosing to break the silence wasn’t an easy decision for Crawford, but she wanted to let the truth out.
It Started When They Were Teenagers in New Jersey
The two were teenagers when they met at a community centre in New Jersey, when Crawford was a basketball star, home from college, and Houston was still in high school. “And we clicked,” Crawford said. Eventually, “something happened” between them, which is Crawford’s modest way of saying they were sexually involved.
The secrecy was almost a must; both of them were raised in God-fearing households. Even between them, they never really acknowledged what was going on. “We never talked labels, like lesbian and gay,” Crawford wrote. “We just lived our lives, and I hoped it could go on that way for ever.”
They Had to Stop for Her Career
The friendship ended up lasting two decades, and it was clear from the beginning that Houston was on her way to becoming a star. It was also evident that her relationship with Crawford was going to be a problem. At 19, after signing her first contract with Arista Records, she went to Crawford’s house, and handed her a Bible.
According to Crawford, Houston told her they had to stop going to bed together “because it would make our journey even more difficult” and “if they found out – because her career was taking off – they’d use it against us.”
Robyn and Nippy: A Couple of Roommates
Hurt, Crawford went along with her wishes, as soon as Houston had enough money, she hired Crawford as her assistant. They then moved into an apartment together, still in New Jersey. She played the role of the caretaker to Houston, whom she always called Nippy.
For years, they functioned as a couple, living together and occasionally sharing a bed. But with Houston’s fame came a slew of men she started dating. There was Jermaine Jackson in the mid-1980s, and then Eddie Murphy, and then her future husband Bobby Brown – all of it was incredibly difficult for Crawford to witness.
Getting Crawford Out of the Picture
Soon enough, Houston’s family and inner circle grew increasingly hostile to Crawford, and Houston would go along with their demands, like telling her not to walk together in public. Then, when she married Bobby Brown, he would sometimes take his anger out on Crawford, and Houston would even back him up.
In 1988, Crawford suggested to the family that Houston get help for her drug addiction. In response, she was banned from business meetings and slowly but surely ousted from the circle. Eventually she quit, 20 years after their teenage beginnings.
Eerily Similar Deaths
Houston had only one daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, and she happened to die in eerily similar circumstances as her mother. The mother and daughter died within three years of each other, after making tragically poor choices.
Houston was 48 when she took her last breath (and bath) on February 11, 2012. Her daughter was only 18 at the time, and would be 22 when she died in almost the same way on July 26, 2015. Bobbi Kristina never regained consciousness after being discovered in a bathtub full of water. It was yet another heartrending end of another chapter in the tragic Houston-Brown family saga.
15 Years of Marital Chaos
Houston and Brown were married for 15 years, and with all the abuse their relationship involved, most people naturally assumed that her decline was his fault. The truth is, though, that Houston was using drugs before Bobby, even at the height of her success.
Together they became a hurricane of drugs, violence, and bad news. Nonetheless, they were long-time lovers, having first met in 1989 and marrying in 1992. Up until their divorce in 2007, she stuck with Brown through rehab, multiple arrests, car accidents and chaos. According to Brown, the infidelity existed on both sides.
She Called Herself a Functioning Junkie
Houston called herself a “functioning junkie.” And still, despite cocaine being in her system at the time of her death, Brown rejected the idea that drugs killed her. “She was really working hard on herself to try to be a sober person,” he told Rolling Stone in 2018.
As for their only child, Bobbi Kristina reacted to the death of her mom that same night by mixing wine and Xanax and being briefly hospitalized.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Bobbi Kristina was like her mom in more ways than one. She too was an aspiring singer and also turned to drugs along the way. Unsurprisingly, Bobbi Kristina found herself in a toxic relationship of her own. If you ask her family, it was her relationship that ultimately killed her.
Nick Gordon was a 12-year-old wayward kid when Houston took him in and brought him up like a brother to Bobbi Kristina, which only adds an extra creepy layer to their relationship. Then, in 2012, Nick and Bobbi Kristina made an announcement, when the reality show The Houstons: On Our Own, premiered…
Engaged to Her Brotherly Best Friend
The two were engaged. Well, at least for a while. They eventually called it off, saying they want to remain close friends as always. A year later, after her mom’s death, the engagement was back on. Bobbi Kristina wrote on Facebook: “I’m tired of hearing people say ‘eww your engaged to your brother’ or ‘if Whitney was still alive would we be together or would she approve of this.'”
By early 2014, they claimed to be married. But it wasn’t really the case. In fact, Bobbi Kristina’s estate later accused him in a wrongful death lawsuit where he was said to have stolen money from her bank accounts.
From One Tragedy to the Next
On January 27, 2015, Bobbi Kristina got into a car accident where she lost control of her Jeep and hit two other vehicles. Four days later, a she was found unconscious in the bathtub in the Atlanta condo she lived in with Nick.
In 2016, Nick was found liable in her death and two months later, he was ordered to pay her estate $36 million. Nick himself died of a heroin overdose on January 1, 2020, at the age of 30. A friend of Bobbi Kristina’s, Alex Reid, told E! News that the young singer was living in fear of Nick, who she said was abusive and controlling.
When Your Honorary Aunt is Aretha Franklin…
To really understand someone’s story, it helps to look back through their life. Houston, born on August 9, 1963, grew up in New Jersey. The daughter of Newark city administrator John Russell Houston Jr. and gospel singer Emily “Cissy” Houston, her honorary aunt was Aretha Franklin, whom she met at age eight when her music artist mom took her to a recording studio.
Houston’s passion for singing began when she was a kid, and her mom encouraged her to join the church choir. “My mother was the first singer I had contact with,” Houston told Rolling Stone in 1993.
From the Church Choir to the Nightclub
“She sang constantly to us around the house, in church. I used to watch her and the feeling … my mother always said to me, ‘If you don’t feel it, then don’t mess with it, because it’s a waste of time.'” It’s only natural that Houston herself would find music herself.
And it didn’t take long for her to become famous, either. Her first album came out in 1985, when she was only 21. She was spotted by Arista Records’ Gerry Griffith when she was singing in a Manhattan nightclub with her mom.
Growing Up Fast in the Industry
But before she made a name for herself in the music business, Houston was making ends meet as a model. She worked for the Click agency and eventually Wilhelmina. The pressure she felt, however, always came from her need to be a musical success.
“People were interested in me from the time I was 15; it was kinda like they were just waiting for me to grow up. Everybody put their bids in,” she told Rolling Stone. Once inside the industry, she had to learn the trade fast. “I had no time to grow up. I had no time to party.”
Once Engaged to Eddie Murphy
“I didn’t even date in my 20s. I wasn’t that normal 20-year-old young woman going through her phases. I was a millionaire by the time I was 22.” In 1990, in her late 20s, she brushed off rumors that she was dating Eddie Murphy.
But according to Robyn Crawford’s book, the singer and comic’s relationship was once so serious that Murphy gave her an engagement ring. Houston was 26 at the time of the alleged engagement, and “had her eyes and heart set” on Murphy. Bobby Brown was apparently “the backup guy.”
He Tried to Stop Her From Marrying Bobby Brown
Houston eventually turned her attention to Brown as Murphy wasn’t giving her the attention she wanted from him. But it seems as though the comedian was more into her than he let on. Crawford said that Houston got a phone call from Murphy on the morning of her wedding.
“That day, Eddie Murphy called to say she was making a mistake, but she pressed ahead,” Crawford revealed. Whether Murphy wanted Houston for himself or if he simply knew Brown wasn’t right for her isn’t exactly clear.
A Childhood Trauma
The 2018 documentary, Whitney, exposed yet another tragic chapter in Houston’s life. It turns out she was abused as a child. Director Kevin Macdonald said, “There was something very disturbed about her, because she was never comfortable in her own skin.”
While Macdonald had an idea of her past abuse, he was faced with the sad truth when filming the documentary. He was told by the singer’s former assistant, Mary Jones, that Houston had suffered abuse as a little girl. The experience, needless to say, changed her irreversibly.
The Downward Spiral Begins
Houston’s brother, Michael Houston, told Oprah Winfrey in 2013 that she he influenced her drug habit when they were younger. He just didn’t realize, he explained, that things would get so out of control. “I feel responsible for what I let go so far,” he said.
“We were always, you know, being together most of the time, and her following behind me… and then when you get into drugs, you do that together too, and it just got out of hand.” He added that back in those days, in the entertainment world, drugs were everywhere.
Even After the Party Was Over
“So that’s the demon you live with,” Winfrey told Michael. “Every day,” he responded. “Every day. That’s something I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life.” Back in 2002, Houston herself spoke with Diane Sawyer about her addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs, and her abuse of cocaine and marijuana.
“I partied a lot,” she told Sawyer, but she got to the point “where you know the party’s over.” At the time of the interview, Houston was sober, but couldn’t say with certainty that she wouldn’t touch drugs again.
She may have been sober for that interview, but Houston conducted many while under the influence. Her battle against addiction was a long one for Houston, filled with public controversies. In 2011, the signer was back in rehab.
Aside from the drugs was her career, which also left her out of control in many aspects. For years, her family was trying to steer the ship. There was a point in the 90s when Crawford, Houston’s father, and Brown all tried to take control of her career. It also came to an ultimatum for Crawford, who asked Houston to choose between her and Brown.
Her Father Stole From Her
We know that that Houston chose her husband. Nd as it turns out, both her Brown and her own father didn’t have her best interests at heart. Her father, John, started taking money from Houston’s funds without her knowledge.
She had already been helping her family financially at this point, considering she had been a millionaire. To find out that her dad was stealing was a hard pill to swallow. But due to her drug habits, she was became strapped for cash and didn’t have the funds to complete a rehab stint.
Her Husband Was Jealous of Her
While her and Brown’s marriage was toxic and tumultuous, it hasn’t been reported that he stole from her. He was, however, jealous of her fame and success – something he never quite reached as an artist himself.
Oprah had asked Houston about this, to which she revealed that Brown (her ex at that point) was indeed jealous. She admitted that she even tried to divert attention from herself asked people to call her Mrs. Brown instead. “He would get really pissed off. But it’s not abnormal for a man to feel that way. Or to feel that he was lacking.”
Her Voice Suffered
The early 2000s weren’t too kind to Houston, which is when her drug abuse started becoming evident. Her voice was noticeably different as she was unable to deliver hits, which took a hit on her career. She started entering rehab facilities, but it was a yo-yo effect.
In 2010, while touring across Europe, Asia, and Australia, she struggled. She just couldn’t hit those high notes during her London concert. “She doesn’t want to come, my soprano friend,” she told the crowd. Many left the show midway, but Houston blamed the air-conditioner.
Blame it on the Air Conditioner
“Turn the air-con off,” she asked of the organizers at her show. “I can feel it. It takes away my soprano.” While in Australia, she couldn’t remember the names of her backup singers, and she coughed relentlessly. The show got mostly negative feedback from the public.
Aretha Franklin spoke about the incidents, supporting her honorary niece. “She had lost the top range of her voice, and some of the audiences were not very kind,” Franklin said. “But night after night, she stood there like a champion and gave her very best.”
Being Bobby Brown
Houston agreed to be part of a reality show for the sake of her husband. Why did she allow herself to be exposed on Being Bobby Brown? She told Oprah, “I just wanted people to know that I was his wife.” Despite all their troubles, she still tried to please him.
She chose to keep quiet about her domestic troubles for a long time. She finally opened up about the stuff she had to go through with Brown, like being spat on by him on his birthday, an incident witnessed by their daughter.
She Didn’t Want In Anymore
In 2005, Being Bobby Brown debuted on Bravo, and it gave people an insider look on how the Brown-Houston family was behind closed doors. Fans got to see a rollercoaster of a ride the family was living, from the fights to the couple breaking out in song and dance in the middle of a store.
The show, which actually got high reviews, was supposed to focus on Brown and his family. But it tended up with Houston as the Queen Bee. In the end, it was canceled after only one season.
It Highlighted Their Dysfunction
The show was never renewed for its second season because Houston decided to no longer appear on it. There’s also the fact that Brown and Bravo weren’t able to come to an agreement for another season. A year after the show ended, Houston filed for legal separation in 2006.
Houston got custody of their daughter. In 2009, Houston explained that the show highlighted their dysfunctional relationship. It was in that same interview, with Oprah, that she described Brown as “emotionally abusive,” adding how it’s “crazy, it’s madness.”
Kevin Costner Was In Love With Her
In 1992, Houston and Kevin Costner starred in the box-office hit, The Bodyguard. Aside from the movie itself and the hit single I Will Always Love You, there’s the relationship the two stars endured both during and after the film wrapped.
The two developed a close friendship and a strong bond – one that affected him so much that he spoke at her funeral. Costner, who was heavily involved in the making of the movie, was adamant on getting Houston in the movie. He said he was drawn to her for simple reasons…
He Knew She Was the One
“I saw her like every red-blooded male would see her: I thought she was really pretty,” Costner said. He saw that no other actress could play the character Rachel perfectly, and he was willing to wait a year for Houston to accept the role.
“I just thought she was that right.” It took a year because Houston didn’t want the gig. She was indeed interested in acting, but as she told Rolling Stone, she wanted to start with smaller roles. “I never thought I’d be co-starring with Kevin Costner!”
She Didn’t Want to Fail Like Madonna
Houston knew that she would be scrutinized for her decision to be on the big screen, similar to how Madonna did. She said she worried that “people would dog me before they gave me the opportunity to do the job.”
She put off the decision to accept or reject the role of Rachel until Costner called her himself. That phone call convinced her to take the job. He promised her that he would never let her make a fool of herself. Apparently, it was what she needed to hear to accept the role.
A 20-Minute Eulogy
Costner even told her not get acting lessons. “I promise you I will not let you fall,” he had told her. “I will help you.” And he did. Come the time of her funeral, he gave a 20-minute eulogy where he shared various anecdotes about the singer.
“Arguably the biggest pop star in the world didn’t think she was good enough.” He added, “Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you, you weren’t just good enough, you were great. You sang the whole damn song without a band. You made the picture what it was.
She Was His “One True Love”
Costner visibly choked up at the end of his speech, concluding with, “Off you go Whitney, off you go. Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father. When you sing before him, don’t you worry. You’ll be good enough.”
It was in 2012, that the actor released a statement saying Houston “was my one true love.” He admitted to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the letters he used to write to Houston. They weren’t love letters, though. He wanted to ger her the help she needed with her addictions.
Their Private Bond
He explained to Cooper that those who loved Houston asked him to write her a letter, hoping it would influence her in her path to recovery. “I don’t know if those letters were ever read,” he said. The two had bonded over a shared interest: religion.
“We both grew up in a Baptist church. It was easy for us to laugh,” Costner said. “The church was what we knew. It was our private bond. At the funeral, he said, “I can see her in my own mind running around here as a skinny little girl knowing everyone, everyone’s business, knowing every inch of this place. I can also see her in trouble, too.”
Her Last Moments
The day before the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, record producer Clive Davis, who signed her to his label three decades earlier, did what he always did before the Grammys: he hosted a party. He typically held his pre-awards party at the hotel the night before the big show.
That particular year, Houston didn’t make it. Earlier that day, her long-time assistant, Mary Jones, Houston’s suite for only a few moments to find a dress for her. When she came back, the singer was face down in the bathtub.
20 Minutes of CPR
By 3:30 pm, The Beverly Hills Fire Department arrived. They performed CPR for 20 minutes before pronouncing the 48-year-old dead at 4 pm. The entire bathroom was littered with drug paraphernalia, but Houston’s prescription medications weren’t there and her driver’s license was missing.
The coroner concluded that she had been “acutely intoxicated from cocaine” and that it “contributed” to her “accidental death.” Houston had checked into her Beverly Hilton suite preparing to attend both the pre-Grammy party hosted and the awards the next evening.
She Was Off the Wagon Again
It wasn’t well known by people in the industry that she was back on drugs. Her family later revealed that she was back off the wagon at the time. And it was only one day prior, as was mentioned earlier, that she saved her daughter’s life.
Who knew that the bathtub would be such a dangerous place for the mother and daughter on repeated occasions. “Whitney said that God told her to go and check on Krissi,” Houston’s goddaughter Brandi Boyd said.
A Forbidden Cocktail
As for Houston’s own death, she was found with the faucets turned off, and among the drugs scattered about was a “small spoon with a white crystal-like substance in it and a rolled-up piece of white paper.” The coroner’s report also detailed the 12 bottles of prescription medication she was on.
Xanax, Benadryl, and the muscle relaxant Flexeril had all been doled out by five different doctors. Aside from the drugs, the marijuana and cocaine in her system, her hotel room had an open bottle of champagne, two beers, and loose tablets.
Was Foul Play Involved?
If you ask Jones, there must have been some foul play involved. To this day, questions remain unanswered as to how exactly she died. “Somebody was in the room with her, had given her these drugs, and had found her drowned in the bath, switched off the taps and left the room,” said Jones.
Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht noted that water had reached 93.5 degrees, which was hot enough to leave burn marks on her skin. Wecht even stated that he didn’t believe she drowned.
The Coroner Doesn’t Believe It Was a Drowning
Houston had a wig on her head, and her body held scars from a breast augmentation surgery she underwent. “I think that she fell into this very hot water, that accounts for a little bruise that was seen in the left forehead area, some other pressure markings on the face, including the slight laceration of the lip, and the fact that she is lying face down,” Wecht stated.
There’s also the fact that her driver’s license was removed from her wallet, as well as the majority of her prescription bottles that were taken out from a brown bag. Despite the suspicions, no foul play was ever officially reported.