In the new book The Whitney I Knew gospel singer BeBe Winans tells the story of his friendship with Whitney Houston. The book arrived just before the release of Houston's final movie, Sparkle, which opens this Friday in theaters.
The following excerpt comes from Chapter 1: Our Black Princess.
My heart desires each of us to listen to her memory and see if we can’t sift through the tabloids and into the heart of our “American Princess.”
When my daughter, Miya, was four, she fell in love with the television movie Cinderella. The one in which Whitney played the Fairy Godmother and Brandy played Cinderella. We taped it for Miya so she could watch it. And watch it she did. Over and over and over again.
One day Whitney stopped by the house. The doorbell rang and Miya ran to see who was there. When she opened the door, she stood frozen— dumbstruck. Whitney walked in, and Miya ran across the room and grabbed me.
“Daddy, Daddy! The Fairy Godmother is here!”
Whitney clapped her hands, threw her head back, and laughed. “Oh, Lord! I spent all this time trying to be a singer, and now I’m a Fairy Godmother.”
I can just imagine Miya’s little mind working—how she would conjure up her little Cinderella world. I used to watch her play in her room. She’d act out both parts, first Whitney, then Brandy. How I’d laugh: my precious little daughter living in the princess world with Whitney.
On that day, when the doorbell rang, my little Miya faced her hero. But in this case, her hero was more than just a character in a fairy tale played over and over on the television. Now her hero was a live human being who took a real interest in her life.
The same woman who played the Fairy Godmother also played the real-life role of Miya’s godmother. And maybe at that time in her young life, Miya didn’t fully understand the “godmother” idea, but she would over time. Over time she’d see past the glass slipper and the “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and into the real person. And that time would come by way of laughter . . . play . . . and, later, sadness.
To my Miya and her brother, Benjamin, and to my nieces and nephews as well, Whitney was as real as anybody else. She’d call the house and even stop in from time to time. She held those kids. She played with them. She sang to them. She was around like any friend of the family would be.
The public forgets that behind the glowing television screen a real person lives and breathes and eats breakfast just like everyone else. A person with friends and even enemies. A person with feelings.
Celebrities get lonely—even if they’re superstars.
They get sad.
They get desperate.
They get lost.
They desire to be found.
Whitney wasn’t just a singer who wore opulent outfits on stage; she was someone who liked to wear blue jeans and tennis shoes, she liked to play practical jokes, and she loved children. The fairy-tale character on the television found her way into my daughter’s heart, but it was even more than that. She found her way into Miya's real life. Whitney was like that good friend of the family who everyone refers to as Uncle or Aunt So-and-So. No one remembers when or how they became part of the family; they’ve just always been so.
Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Worthy Publishing.