I remember watching Whitney Houston videos as a kid. I thought she was so beautiful, her caramel skin and superior vocals proving a stark contrast to the typical pop stars of the day.
Alongside Madonna and Michael Jackson, Houston’s music was a slumber party staple in my formative years.
She was absolutely the first female pop star that prompted me to convert hairbrush into microphone. In the 6th grade at the local Skateland roller rink, I’d turn in to “Whitney on wheels” when her songs played. Years later, I would have the pleasure of promoting her artistry over the airwaves.
She paved the way for many, setting a near impossible bar for all female vocalists who hoped to accomplish even a fraction of her success. Whitney Houston was a defining voice of my generation.
While she was certainly unique, Whitney Houston was not an anomaly. Many artists (especially those who start young) struggle to re-invent themselves over time, which can be a difficult task under a cruel and unforgiving spotlight.
The blessing and curse that is worldwide fame has led to the self destruction of many of our greatest contributors.
Tabloid media gains from these unfortunate occurrences, documenting the most vulnerable in their darkest days and pumping it out for mass consumption.
This practice and the effect it has had on our society is (in my opinion) the ugliest part of mass media. My heart aches for Ms. Houston’s family, mostly for Bobbi Kristina.
While fans and friends reflect on the life, career and untimely death of Whitney Houston, women who work within the music industry have much to say about an artist who touched them on a deeper level.
Ms. Houston was a mother, daughter, friend, a woman dealing with pressures few could ever understand.
Here are accounts from women behind the scenes in music and broadcast media who have been impacted by the loss of a musical icon.
On a personal note, I take great comfort in knowing the last song Whitney Houston sang on public stage was “Jesus Loves Me”. God rest her soul.
“The music industry, reeling from the death of the incomparable Whitney Houston, will be forever changed by her legacy.
I think those of us who loved her phenomenal voice had such hopes for a miraculous come-back from Whitney.
Sad that she couldn’t pull it together, perhaps because of her insecurity with getting older in an industry full of youth and beauty. Talent should be enough. Sad that she was plagued with her dependency. Such a voice. Such a beauty. Such a loss for the music industry and music lovers all over.”
-Vicky Biello, CBS Radio New York
“I admired her from the 1980′s just before she became an international superstar.Known by close friends and family as”Nippy”, Whitney was that innocent eager energetic young diva-in-training who realized she had a gift to share with the world.
Years ago, I was on the air at WNJR, the local radio station in Newark, NJ where she once stopped by to look around. “Who’s that?” I asked as I walked by, not realizing I had just laid eyes on our next american singing sensation.
I secretly learned how to use my own voice from emulating Whitney’s. I developed breath control, diction and how to enunciate without straining, how to keep a smile in my voice, how to speak from the diaphragm, and not from the throat. I can only imagine her vocal frustrations! Even today, for me and many others, there is tremendous pressure to protect our instrument, get that voice insured, and by golly, never get sick.
When I heard she died suddenly and unexpectedly, my heart broke, my stomach hurt, my tears fell, my mood changed, and my grammy weekend was officially ruined.
Losing Whitney felt like losing a family member, a distant cousin you never get to see because they’re so busy being famous.
I will always love, honor and respect Whitney Houston and reap the inconspicuous benefits left behind by this courageous Leo the Lion who dared to bare her heart and soul to the world with the power of her voice.”
- Tanya Simpson, Sirius XM Satellite Radio
“When I first heard the news that Whitney had died, I prayed really hard it wasn’t true…that it was one of those internet hoaxes & we’d soon see a video of Whitney proclaiming that she was alive and well. Unfortunately, it was true, she was dead.
In shock, I did what everyone else did, I called my family members and friends to find out if they’d heard the news. Then I took to Facebook and Twitter to grieve Whitney’s death with all my friends and followers.
I posted videos, not of all of her most popular hits, but of her songs that really meant something to me personally.
Watching the videos, I heard the Whitney notes and her beautiful singing, it brought back all the old emotions I used to feel when I grew up listening to her music. Then it hit me…OH MY GOD, Whitney Houston is REALLY dead.
As the realization started to sink in, I began to cry. I mean, real tears were flowing down my face and I was sincerely saddened.
Why does the death of Whitney Houston affect me so deeply when I didn’t even know her personally? It was the music & her singing.
Like I said, music has always been my life. So instead of focusing on the many trials and tribulations that kept Whitney in the headlines later in her career, I choose to focus on the the fact that her music & her singing brought such joy to my life and to many millions of other lives around the world.”
R.I.P. Whitney Houston
- Shelley Wade, Z100 New York & MYfm Los Angeles
“I first heard Whitney Houston singing a duet with Teddy Pendergrass. I was working at a record store in North Carolina, and with boundless excitement I shared with record buyers info about this new artist, Whitney Houston who was about to release her first solo album.
Near in age, our careers were just starting at that time and I was so privileged to have an up close view of her worldwide success. She was an amazing artist whose purpose was greater than her talent. She touched the world with her voice and with her light. Inspiration is synonymous with Whitney.”
- Helen Little, Lite FM New York
“Wendy Williams used to say Whitney was like a sister in her head. So many of us in the industry who are around her same age felt the same way.
We could relate to Whitney’s struugle against addiction and domestic violence. We could understand why she dated younger men.
We understood her struggle to stay relevant and earn a living.
We all hoped that she would stay sober and prove her critics wrong. Now, her sisters in the industry msut have her back and caution against a rush to judgment before we know the full facts about her death. And we pray for Bobbi Kristina, our daughter in our head.”
- Anna Marie, News Writer (formerly of WBLS, New York)
“I believe that fame is a double edged sword if you are a woman. You achieve a certain status, but you sacrifice your privacy and sometimes individuality.
The pressure to be be what the public wants is hard and unrealistic. People put you up on a pedestal, but you are crucified if you prove to be less than what the public has imagined you to be.
It’s important to remember who you are at your core. That will keep you balanced in this industry. You are a confident, talented woman at the heart of it all.
Surrounding yourself with mentors and positive minded people also helps you stay focused in this game!”
- Deja Vu, Sirius XM Satellite Radio (formerly of Power 105.1 FM, New York)
“Last night, when I received the news that Whitney Houston died, I was shocked, stunned and had no reaction.
I said a quick prayer for her family and went to sleep with my husband as it really didn’t registered. When I woke up Sunday morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I immediately thanked God for another day and for my family as the tears rolled down my face. At that moment, I realized a mother, daughter, singer, songwriter, film producer, actress, lover of the Lord and legendary icon had passed.
Unless you have walked a day in Whitney’s shoes, one should not judge! The trials and tribulations that she was faced with in this business to describe in a word is “terrifying” speaking as a woman in the industry and despite what most say, she did it with resilience and most times grace.
As a record executive who gained success at the same time as Whitney climbed the charts, I felt the peaks and valleys of her musical journey and the perils of life along with mine.
She was raising a teenager, which is the most difficult job of all and maintaining a musical /film career. I believe Whitney Houston was most courageous and I salute her!
It is my prayer that we not judge her for her shortcomings but praise her for her victories and accomplishments.
Finally, I asked that we all pray for Bobbi-Kristina as she is an 18yr old with out a mother. The pain and sorrow of death is never easy for any child. RIP Whitney and in your words “I Will Always Love You!!!!!”
- Vida Nash, President of Record Hit Maker (RHM) Management
“Whitney Houston lost her personal battle with the terminal disease of addiction, but a significant part of this complex, sorrowful tale is her physically and emotionally abusive relationship with Bobby Brown.
That marriage (and the couple’s co-dependancy) fueled the dark collapse of her career and life. So it was most disturbing — and an ugly parallel — during last night’s Grammy events, between the prayers and tributes for Houston, to watch Chris Brown receive a standing ovation, an award and multiple showcases as his abused ex-girlfriend, Rihanna, observed.
It’s been three years since he was arrested for beating her, but Brown also trashed a dressing room and took out a window at ABC’s “Good Morning America” just eleven months ago.
What sort of message does Brown’s triumphant “comeback” send to young women? Or young men? Houston’s legacy can’t simply be about her extraordinary voice, but also the need for progressive measures, spearheaded by the music industry, to aid those in the throes of depression, addiction and domestic violence.”
- Kara Manning, Editor/Writer and On-Air Interviewer ‘The Alternate Side’ WFUV New York (formerly of MTV, Rolling Stone)
“While working with Mariah, I had the pleasure of meeting Whitney Houston during the recording, of “When You Believe” – the Whitney/Mariah duet from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Whitney was funny, gracious and comfortable in her own skin.”
- Rhonda Cowan, BET Networks