By Mary Keneema (Buckingham)
It is hard to make a biopic about a famous person because nowadays so much information is available online. The biopics I have enjoyed the most were about people I did not know, e.g. Race, The Hurricane, etc. That’s off the top of my head. Of course, I write from the point of view of someone who is not from America – some of these legends may be famous in America but not so much in the rest of the world. Whitney Houston was known all over the world and so were her troubles.
One of the biggest tragedies was making her husband Bobby Brown the scapegoat for all her turmoil. This is because the world did not know who the real Whitney Houston was – a young girl who grew up in the ghetto and liked to have fun. Had we known her this way, then we would have accepted and understood her attraction to Bobby Brown. Because we didn’t know her this way, we immediately associated her drug use with her “weird” romantic choice of a husband. I liked this documentary for helping me to put all the puzzle pieces together. It was well put together and it has some great footage on there that I hadn’t seen anywhere else online.
The best footage was of Whitney Houston herself and you really get to see her depression – the saddest footage being when she said that Nippy, her childhood nickname that she used to name her true, authentic self, as opposed to Whitney Houston the Hollywood persona, was somewhere within her and she did not have the power to summon her – Whitney could not summon Nippy but Nippy could summon Whitney. There are similarities here with the Smeagol/Gollum dichotomy. I think because she was so good at hiding her true self from the public, and eventually this led to her losing sight of who she was, we only got to see two extreme versions of her – the angelic and the drug abuse, with nothing in between. I came away from watching this documentary with a new word to describe her – depressed. It is tempting to blame the era she grew up in because nowadays mental health has finally started to get the attention that it deserves and had she “lived” in our time, she would perhaps have gotten better help, a better support system and even the people in her life would have done more. The most they did were interventions for a drug addict but I think the drug addiction was merely a symptom. She was a depressed soul that needed psychological healing.
What is more saddening was her attempt to get better in her later years, especially around the time she did the movie Sparkle. We learn from those who worked with her on that movie that she was happy on set – she socialised with the cast and crew, she felt a sense of belonging and a purpose so much so that when the movie wrapped, she said that she did not want to leave. I have seen this in my own life – those who suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction, when they do eventually voluntarily and genuinely seek and get help from rehab, when they leave rehab, they need to have an activity waiting for them on the outside which can give their life some meaning and without that, they cannot survive. Whitney found that purpose in the movie Sparkle and when it was over and she had nothing else to give her that same sense of purpose, she relapsed.
Other than the footage, I also learned some new things about her life that I had not come across online – for instance, how instrumental her mother was in training her to sing. We only ever hear Clive Davis being praised but really all he did was market Whitney Houston as a product. He was a very good marketeer except the only problem is that Whitney Houston was not a product.
I definitely recommend this documentary to anyone who cares to know about the mystery that is Whitney Houston. You will find, especially as someone who is growing up in a time when mental health is now fashionable, that Whitney Houston unfortunately joins a long list of celebrities (Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, etc.) who lost their lives to mental health problems that could easily have been treated. They are the souls who sacrificed themselves to bring awareness to the dangers of mental health and they are our sweet heroes in our fight to strive for better emotional intelligence.