Ok.. Full disclosure here.
I was a little late in discovering the splendor of Whitney Houston’s voice.
I mean, I knew she could sing, but the magic of her ability..
The way she opened her mouth and ten notes would just fall right out with seemingly no effort.
The texture of her voice and its agility. She could move from meekness to power in an instant.
I was just a little late to the party.
Not late like Lauren Hill late.
Late like when you’re ten minutes late for work, but you’re still in the grace period. So you’re technically late, but not really late.
That’s if the company you work for has a grace period..
When I caught on, I went back to find as much of what I missed as possible. Albums, live performances that I could find on YouTube. I went head first into research and was purely amazed.
Whitney Houston sang to us like the world was on the tip of her tongue and she was holding all of our souls in her vocal chords.
Her talent remains unmatched.
Full disclosure again.
When Showtime aired the first documentary on her life, I broke down and cried at the end. She gave us her entire life through her art; her uninhibited talent that was so much hers was given to us with no question. Despite all the pain and struggle her talent brought to her, Whitney sang to us because she knew it was what she was here to do. She knew her voice entertained us, comforted us, moved us to tears. Her singing was a force of nature that was almost unreal.
It was very real though, and so was her tragedy.
While her death and the circumstances surrounding her passing is the biggest disappointment in all of this, right behind that is the horrible way she was treated inside the last ten years of her life.
When Whitney appeared on stage with Michael Jackson in 2001 for his 30th Anniversary Celebration, the jokes started. She was dangerously frail, and instead of showing sympathy to her, people began to make fun of her. I won’t go through the list of parodies and shows that made a serious indication of a problem into fodder for comedy, but it was heartbreaking to see someone who gave so much being treated like she never gave us anything.
In what was probably Whitney’s most unforgettable interview in 2002, Diane Sawyer asked “If you had to name the devil among them [drugs/alcohol]?”, Whitney said, “That would be me.” She then turned her head and gave what looked like a possessed smile.
It was a dark and terrifying moment, yet people saw comedy. Not even moments after the interview came all the jokes about her saying “Crack is whack”.
I never laid eyes on the reality show with her and then husband Bobby Brown. Whitney may have thought since she didn’t have much voice left to give, she could share with us in that way. She also surely wanted to support her husband who had spent a good amount of time in her shadow, particularly with the success of The Bodyguard.
Her tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown was all part of the snowball.
I was worried for Whitney because of her immense talent of course, but more so because of the fact that she was human, and because the pain in her life was louder than all the hits she had.
Clive Davis brought Whitney Houston to us when she 19 years old, and from that point on, any sense of a normal life became non existent for her. It would then add up that years of traveling the world and giving of herself would at some point take a toll.
Whitney was screaming out for help, and people were responding with laughter and disregard.
Her interview with Oprah in 2009 was a glimmer of hope. She seemed happy, healthy, and in a better space. I was still concerned, but let out a small sigh of relief that she seemed to be on a better path.
As it turned out, things did not remain better for long, and she died in 2012.
We were a nation that was overall saddened by her death, but her passing also reignited some of the negative energy around her life that had been lurking over the years.
The memes, jokes, and skits were callous and heartless. It was unfathomable how cruel people were after her passing.
There is so much to unpack with the death of Whitney Houston.
First, we build up celebrities and put them on pedestals, but get this. Once they begin to reflect our own pain and issues, we remove the pedestal because it looks too familiar, hurts too much, and hey, it’s easier to admonish a celebrity than it is to be truthful about our own internal messes.
Whitney was a mega star with unimaginable pressure on her as one person. She unfortunately couldn’t cope in healthy ways.
Whitney also probably didn’t have much time to figure out how to cope because she was too busy making sure all of us where filled with the beautiful sound of her voice.
She chose us over herself.
Next there is the aspect of comedy. Humor can be quite complicated in times of tragedy. On one side of it, laughter can bring relief, but some jokes show that people may not know how to deal with loss, and so they either joke at the wrong time, or make humor that goes extremely too far.
It is part of the comic’s job to bring laughter and light to our lives, but to try bringing humor to someone’s personal tragedy, someone that we all supposedly loved, is tragic itself, especially when the subject of the joke is not here to defend herself.
Chris Rock made this obvious when he recently posted a tasteless meme of Whitney Houston.
The post, made on Instagram, was so random, it made me wonder if Chris was thinking of Whitney or drug use in general and didn’t know what to make of his thoughts, so he instead put together a disgusting joke. It was in such sour execution that even Bobby Brown expressed his hurt over it.
Adding to the disturbing post made by Chris was the fact that other public figures were in the comments laughing and encouraging the demented humor.
Social media has quickly become one of the pieces of the celebrity puzzle. People use their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages to connect with those that are in the public eye in positive and negative ways. People also attach themselves to celebrities in order to get attention.
The latter is often times extremely ugly.
After Whitney passed, a young lady posted a terrible meme on Instagram about her death. I commented that the post was in poor taste and in no way humorous. She replied that it was “just a joke” and I should “lighten up”. I was beside myself in anger, but the young lady was impossible in her detachment and her need for attention even adding, “Oh I didn’t know you were related to her” as if you can only feel emotional distress for family members.
The way people are willing to separate themselves for the tragedies of others shows how far they are willing to push themselves away from the truth of their own feelings.
Celebrities also use social media to express themselves, but sometimes they too make it plain that they are just as troubled as the rest of us.
Because they are human, just like the rest of us.
What’s also coming to light is the fact that a lot of people, from celebs to regular folks are hurting and lonely and needing connection, but because they don’t know how to deal with their voids on a healthy emotional level, they use social media as a way to try and fill those voids, and people like Whitney Houston become the carnage of people’s internal pain.
I understand grief and confusion over a tragic loss, but it is inhumane to dance on the grave of someone who gave so much of her life to us she probably felt like drugs were the only way she could get back some of what she gave.
The drugs instead ended up taking the life she turned over to us as a teenager.
To this day I still hurt for Whitney. I’m still pained by the way she and her daughter died. I’m still bothered by the people that loved her only as far as her paycheck would support them, and not enough to help build a wall around her.
Whitney Houston wasn’t perfect and was of course not faultless in this, but no way in hell should we have been blessed with someone of her talent only to return it by throwing our own issues at her in the way of callous jokes and postings.
So before you go to make some joke or meme that you think is oh so clever and will go viral and make you famous, take a long hard look in the mirror and figure out what inside of you is so broken you’d be willing to laugh at the expense of her despair. Then continue to look in the mirror, because that’s where your healing is going to start, not by laughing at Whitney Houston.