She had the face of an angel and the voice of an angel. Whitney Houston leaves behind a daughter and a breathtaking musical legacy. Like Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, and many others before her, she also leaves behind the debris of an addicted life.
A cacophony of criticizing, judgmental voices has already arisen on the Internet. Gossips chat gleefully about her last hours. All eyes are on Bobby Brown, considered by many to be the villain of the piece. Even young Bobbi Kristina hasn’t escaped unscathed, and she’s just a teenaged girl whose mom just died!
Welcome to our celebrity culture. We put people on pedestals so we can get a better view of them when we shoot our rifles of judgment at them. We expect our celebrities to be something beyond human. We buy their records or watch their movies and somehow start to believe that we own them. We need to know every bit of their business and then comment on it. On Monday, while at the grocery store, I heard two employees complaining about the choice of Jennifer Hudson to sing the Whitney tribute at the Grammys. J-Hud, in her recent book, describes some of the hurtful comments she’s received because she lost 80 pounds and got healthy! Apparently we’ve already moved on to the next target!
Then there are the celebs who refuse to play by the scripts we have handed them. Angelina and Madonna keep creating, keep growing as artists, despite the roar of the judging crowd. After the Super Bowl, Madonna was described by some as an “arthritic grandmother” who could no longer handle the rigors of long dance routines. I saw that same performance, and the only problem I saw was her shoes! I think the heels were causing Girlfriend some problems. These women keep going, no matter what, and they have learned to ignore our opinions about them. That causes some to shoot even more, spreading outright lies to try to “get” to them.
After we tear them down, we hope for redemption. On the same weekend that Whitney Houston died, we honored Glen Campbell for his contributions to the music industry, and we are touched by this man’s dignity as he fades into the sunset of Alzheimer’s but is enjoying his final performances. Campbell, too, struggled with alcoholism and addiction, and it’s possible that those years of abuse contributed to his illness. But we love a good comeback story, don’t we? Tear ’em down, then build ’em back up again.
People often think that celebrities, with all their money, are immune to problems and challenges. We don’t know what started Whitney on her road to addiction. It could have been something as simple as taking a sleeping pill. For some, it’s taking that very first drink — some alcoholics are addicted from that very moment. There’s a lot we still don’t know about brain chemistry and addiction, but to criticize an addict for being addicted makes no sense. Addiction is not a character flaw. It is much, much more complicated than that.
If you don’t understand this, stop eating sugar or drinking coffee for thirty days and see how that works for you.
She sang like an angel and looked like an angel, and we wanted her to be one so we wouldn’t have to be. When she showed us that she was all too human, we disapproved. We expected more from her than we do of ourselves. Would you like to live with that kind of pressure?
We will never know the truth of Whitney’s end. I am sad that she never saw her 50s and all the good that comes from maturing. I am sad that her daughter must live without a mother. I am sad that we understand so little about addiction. I am sad that we will never hear new material from a remarkable and talented artist. Mostly, I am sad that we wanted an angel instead of accepting that she was just like us — with joys, sorrows, talents, and troubles. She was human.
WELL-SAID, Nadine. Thank you. We are all just human, doing our best to survive and be happy in this world.
Thanks, Michael Ann. So true.
Thoughtful post, Nadine. Addiction is an illness that is not diagnosed until it is. After that it is still persistent and needs constant monitoring. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. It is wonderful that individuals and their families can always receive help and recover no matter how far down the scale they may have gone down. Heres to hope and healing!
Amen, Theresa. I used to go to Al-Anon (for families & friends of alcoholics), and the AA meetings went on next door. I met several of them and heard some hair-raising stories. I am amazed at how much the body can take and still heal — not that we would want to abuse it, but some of these guys were walking miracles to have survived. The good news is, if an addict is still alive, he or she can heal. Thanks for sharing.
That’s a wonderful Post!!! Thank you so much! She is an Angel now. She was before, and she still is. Human weaknesses do not make us inferior as long as we are learning from it. Celebrities always have a hard life, and it’s never easy to be in their shoes. They live FOR others, for US, and can so rarely be themselves because they have no privacy at all. On another hand, maybe I’m wrong, but I think that some people tend to criticize or judge a person after their death as a way to protect themselves from grieving. It’s… Read more »
Great point! Thanks for adding another dimension to the discussion.
Wow, amen! Wonderful words of wisdom! You are so right. We build people up, then enjoy watching them fall. As soon as I heard that Whitney Houston had died, I knew the endless commentary was going to begin. I have felt truly sad about her death. Not the kind of sadness I would feel at the death of a friend or someone who was actually a part of my life. But a sadness over a gift from God that has now been silenced. You’re right. She should in no way be blamed for her addiction. I pray that her soul… Read more »
I feel the same way, Tina. I had to say something. I always loved her vibrant energy and smile, and I rooted for her happiness. Like you, I don’t grieve as I would a friend or relative, but I wanted to honor this woman whom I never met, but who gave me and millions of others such joy in her music.
You said everything I thought. How was your yoga time?
It was fabulous, Julie! Thanks for asking. I’m still absorbing some of what I learned, and I’ll probably share some things in the blog next week.
I just stopped sugar and coffee for a month. Can’t believe you said that! Anyway! I wholeheartedly agree!
Oh, that’s funny! And good luck with that. You’re very brave! 🙂
I’ve read quite a few posts about Ms. Houston, and the views vary. It is always sad when a person gets lost in their life, famous or not. I did not walk in her shoes and have no idea what she lived through, I dare say, to us layman we thought she had everything, clearly she did not. People are people – we all have the same bones under our skin, what happened to Ms. Houston could happen to any one of us. I am not sure I care to give up coffee for a month, what for? I like… Read more »