“What’s in your soul is in your soul,” passionate words spoken by actress, recording artist and one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston. Nicked named “The Voice,” the iconic singer and global superstar is known for her powerful vocal range and vocal improvisation skills. Whitney is considered one of the greatest vocalists in popular music and one of the most influential performers of all time. Whitney’s first four albums (released between 1985 and 1992) amassed global sales in excess of 86 million copies. Her debut album, Whitney Houston, became the biggest the biggest-selling album by a debut artist. She is the only artist to have had seven consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 hits, which include ‘Saving All My Love For You’, ‘How Will I Know’, ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’, So Emotional’, and ‘The Greatest Love of All’. Also, she is the only artist with seven consecutive multiplatinum albums (Whitney Houston, Whitney, I’m Your Baby Tonight, The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife movie soundtracks and My Love Is Your Love ). She starred in several films roles, including The Bodyguard (1992), Waiting to Exhale (1995), The Preacher’s Wife (1996). Cinderella (1997) and Sparkle (2012). In 2020, Whitney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born August 9, 1963 in Newark New Jersey to Cissy Houston, legendary gospel singer and member of Sweet Inspirations (female R& B group which sang backup for Elivs Presley) and John Russell Houston Jr, an ex-Army serviceman, and a manager of the Sweet Inspirations. Whitney began singing at an early age. As a child, she grew up singing at New Hope Baptist Church, where here mother was the choir minister and she became a background vocalist while in high school.
By the time she turned 15, Whitney was performing often with her mother. Around the same time, she was discovered by a photographer who was awed by her natural beauty. She soon became an extremely sought-after teen model. She was one of the first black women to appear on the cover of Seventeen after becoming a teen model in 1981. But music remained her true love. With the guidance of Arista Records chairman Clive Davis, Whitney signed to the label at age 19. Her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987), both peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and are among the best-selling albums of all time. Whitney’s third studio album, I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), yielded two Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles: “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “All the Man That I Need”.
With the highly anticipated release of her second album, Whitney (June 1987), she made history as the first female artist to enter the Billboard album charts at number one. The new album soared past nine times platinum on the strength of four number one chart-toppers, the Grammy-winning “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” This established Whitney as the only artist to have seven consecutive number one hits, surpassing a record previously set by the Beatles and the Bee Gees.
After establishing her screen appeal on her well-received video clips in which she dominated MTV’s rotations during its first decade on the air. In 1992, Whitney made her movie debut in The Bodyguard. She co-starred with Oscar-winning actor/director Kevin Costner. The film not only broke box office records worldwide but was ultimately responsible for the greatest-selling motion picture soundtrack album of all time. “I Will Always Love You,” the first single release, became the best-selling commercial single in history and reaped multiple Grammys wins for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal. Three other singles from the album, “I’m Every Woman,” “I Have Nothing” and “Run to You,” were also major international hits for Whitney. The Bodyguard soundtrack album, featuring six Whitney songs in all, has sold more than 42 million copies worldwide. At 17 times platinum in the United States, it is the biggest-selling motion picture soundtrack album in history, ahead of Saturday Night Fever and Forrest Gump, Titanic.
In 1995, she co-starred in the critcially acclaimed film, Waiting to Exhale alongside leading actresses Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. The film was directed by Forrest Whitaker and went on to gross more than $70 million. The soundtrack for Waiting to Exhale featured three new tracks from Whitney “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”, “Count On Me” (a duet with CeCe Winans) and “Why Does It Hurt So Bad.” The album spent five weeks at number one and was certified seven times platinum in the United States.
In 1996, Whitney starred in the motion picture The Preacher’s Wife alongside co-stars Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance. The film was based on the 1947 classic The Bishop’s Wife. The gospel-soaked Arista soundtrack, Whitney’s lifelong dream, became the biggest-selling gospel album in Billboard chart history. Whitney sang lead vocals on 14 of the album’s 15 tracks, including “I Believe in You and Me,” “Step By Step” and “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” In 1997, Whitney starred as the Fairy Godmother in The Wonderful World of Disney’s Cinderella
Whitney received her sixth career GRAMMY in the early 2000s. “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” was voted Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. That same year, Whitney was named Female Artist Of the Decade at the Soul Train Music Awards annual ceremonies virtually 15 years to the day since her debut single, “You Give Good Love,” entered the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart in 1985.
In the 1980s, Whitney was romantically linked to stars including Jermaine Jackson, American football star Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy.
She met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After three years, the couple married on July 18, 1992. During their marriage, they had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Whitney’s marriage to Bobby became tramultural including infidelity, domestic violence, and drug use. In 2003, Bobby was charged with battery after an altercation with Whitney. In 2006, Whitney filed for divorce, which was finalized in April 2007.
In 2009, she released a new album, I Look To You. “The songs themselves will speak to you and you’ll understand where I am and some of the changes I’ve gone through for the better,” Houston told Entertainment Tonight. The recording received a warm welcome from music fans, making it to the top of album charts.
On February 11, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California, Whitney passed away. The offical cause of death was an accidential drowning. She was 48 years old.
Whitney is listed in the Guinness World Records as music’s “most awarded female artist of all time.” Whitney’s unprecedented success has shattered mulitple industry records, while creating new records. One of the greatest singers the world has ever known, her powerful voice, natural beauty, and charm forever lives on through her legacy. To this day, Whitney’s contributions continue to touch the hearts and souls of millions.
AWARDS & HONORS:
- Whitney has earned numerous accolades, including 2 Emmy Awards, 8 Grammy Awards (including two Grammy Hall of Fame honors), 14 World Music Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards (31 Billboard awards in all) and 22 American Music Awards. Whitney holds the record for the most American Music Awards received in a single year by a woman with eight wins in 1994 (overall tied with Michael Jackson). Whitney won a record 11 Billboard Music Awards at its fourth ceremony in 1993. She also holds the record for the most WMAs won in a single year, winning five awards at the sixth World Music Awards in 1994.
- In May 2003, Whitney placed at number three on VH1’s list of “50 Greatest Women of the Video Era”. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s 50th anniversary, ranking Whitney at number nine. Similarly, she was ranked as one of the “Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by VH1 in September 2010. In November 2010, Billboard released its “Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years” list and ranked Whitney at number three who not only went on to earn eight number-one singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, but also landed five number ones on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
- Whitney’s debut album is listed as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine and is on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Definitive 200 list. In 2004, Billboard picked the success of her first release on the charts as one of 110 Musical Milestones in its history. Whitney’s entrance into the music industry is considered one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years, according to USA Today in 2007. It stated that she paved the way for Mariah Carey’s chart-topping vocal gymnastics. In 2015, she was placed at number nine (second as a female) by Billboard on the list “35 Greatest R&B Artists Of All Time”.
- In 2001, Whitney was the first artist to be given a BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Since she received the honor at just the age of 37 at the time, Whitney was and remains the youngest artist to receive this. Five years earlier, in 1996, Whitney became the second recipient of the BET Walk of Fame and was, at 32, the youngest to receive that honor. In 2010, BET honored her once more with the BET Honors.
- Whitney is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, with more than 200 million records sold worldwide. She is the top-selling female R&B artist of the 20th century. Whitney had also sold more physical singles than any other female solo artist in history. As of 2023, she was ranked as one of the best-selling artists in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America with 61 million certified albums Whitney released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum or platinum.
- She is the first and only black artist to have three Diamond-certified albums.
- In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange, New Jersey was renamed to The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts. She held an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Grambling State University, Louisiana. Whitney was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013. In August 2014, she was inducted into the official Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in its second class. In October 2019, Whitney was announced as a 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee, one of nine first-time nominees and 16 total.
- On January 15, 2020, she was announced as an inductee into the Hall’s 2020 class, along with five other acts. In March 2020, the Library of Congress announced that Whitney’s 1992 single “I Will Always Love You” had been added to its National Recording Registry, a list of “aural treasures worthy of preservation” due to their “cultural, historical and aesthetic importance” in the American soundscape. In October 2020, the music video for “I Will Always Love You” surpassed 1 billion views on YouTube, making Whitney the first solo 20th-century artist to have a video reach that milestone.
“God gave me a voice to sing with, and when you have that, what other gimmick is there?”
“My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone tells a lie about you, don’t fight it.”
“Being around people like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Roberta Flack, all these greats, I was taught to listen and observe.”
“My daughter is my greatest inspiration.”
“I’m good where I am at this moment.”
“I’m a person who has life and wants to live, and always have.”
“What’s in your soul is in your soul.”
“Nobody likes to be picked on. Nobody.”
“I’m just fiercely protective. It’s like, that’s my lair and nobody messes with my lair.”
“Loneliness comes with life.”
“I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.”
Recreate Model: Shaunielle Foster
Recreate Photograher: Jasmine Mallory