Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Will Always Love You

Her name occupied the space at the top of a Taboo card last night; this morning, Alexandra sent me a text message informing me that she was gone.

I've seen a few posts here and there on Facebook--mostly from women my age. The smattering has been surprisingly minimal. Considering everything else garnering attention on social media, her virtual absence makes me sad.

Of course she fell from grace--like so many other people who have become larger than the life they could live--but haven't we come to expect that? Haven't come to expect that no one is ever as fantastic as we secretly dream they are?

I remember seeing her with Bobby Brown and wondering why someone so pretty and pure and talented would ever pick him. I remember hearing about the cocaine habits, the police reports, and the abuse--but by then, Hollywood's many facades had already made me jaded. By then, I stopped aiming to become like those I proclaimed to admire.

Instead of wallowing in disappointment, I wallowed in my memories. Instead of expecting my heroes to be more than their talent, I appreciated their gifts. Instead of listening to media gossip, I listened to their music, to their speeches, to their talents.

She, like many others--Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and President John F. Kennedy--all at one point took residence on a pedestal in my heart. Then, one by one, their indiscretions poked holes in my innocence, sending each of them tumbling to the floor. Even though their personal behavior saddened me, at one point, I still admired them. I still wanted to dance like The King of Pop, play hoops like Air Jordan, and speak commandingly like JFK.

And in my room, as I twirled atop green carpeting and bathed myself with the sunshine blazing through my window, I wanted to be as beautiful, as bold, and as earth-shattering as Whitney Houston. I wanted my lungs to explode with authority, my curls to bounce wildly with every step, and my shoulders to tilt with the same convincing confidence Whitney exuded from the cover of my favorite album.

I remember sneaking into my mother's cassette collection and stealing Whitney. I remember sealing my door, repositioning my mirror and cuing up her voice.

Clock strikes upon the hour
And the sun begins to fade
Still enough time to figure out
How to chase my blues away
I've done alright up till now
It's the light of day that shows me how
And when the night falls the loneliness calls.

Without looking deeper into her words, without recognizing what that loneliness might do to her, I leaned forward into my mirror, rocked my shoulders, pumping them a little before marching in a circle and spinning back around. Throwing my arms out toward the mirror, I focused my eyes on the sea of adoring fans resting just beyond the glass.

Oh! I wanna dance with somebody
I wanna feel the heat with somebody
Yeah I wanna dance with somebody
With somebody who loves me

...Don't cha wanna dance say ya wanna dance don't cha wanna dance?
Don't cha wanna dance say ya wanna dance--uh ha...
with somebody who loooooves you...ohhhhh!

Then, I collected myself. Cuing up "How Will I Know." I set my feet in position. I gazed down at my toes. And I inhaled and began again.

The song didn't matter--I loved them all. Her voice lit fire under my feet, and because of that, it was always about the choreography.

I knew my limitations. I knew I couldn't sing, but with Whitney drowning me out in the background, no one--not even the people in the mirror or Monk, the stuffed monkey on my bed, could hear my disastrous pitches.

And so I danced and belted and pulled back my shoulders. I popped my hips and marched around the room. I jumped on top of my bed, and pulled my hairbrush up to my lips, rocking out to Whitney Houston with every ounce of energy residing in my soul.

For several years of my young life, Whitney Houston was a goddess.

And sadly, just like the Gods and Goddesses who spanned the pages of Greek and Roman mythology, she thought she was immortal; she thought she could live forever indulging in the life she wanted to live. Unlike the gods and goddesses who assumed the spotlight in ancient texts though, Whitney eventually hit her limit.

I thought she learned her lesson before it was too late--at least that's what it seemed like on Oprah. But she was human after all. When she set down her microphone, when she took off her gown, when she let down her tussles of hair--she was just a woman. Full of pain and fear and insecurity. Imperfect, lonely and real.

But no matter her flaws, she could sing. She could command the room with her beautiful face, and she could incite goosebumps with her electrifying voice. She was the first strong, bold and confident woman I remember ever seeing on stage. And her cassette tapes inspired some of the most treasured moments of my childhood.

And so, Whitney, it doesn't matter to me why you died, or how you lived. No, I am just thankful for what you gave. For what you started. For what you helped me create. And because of all of that, I will always love you.

Rest in Peace, Whitney Houston.


  1. Thank you Laura-
    Although I am a few years older than you- well maybe more than a few-
    she had the same power over me. I love your images.
    Thank you for sharing. karen

  2. Mills - Upon hearing the news last night I wanted so badly to write about her... about role models who fall from grace... about how Whitney provided the soundtrack to my childhood... I was afraid it would sound cliche so I didn't. You, however, did her perfect justice. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for reading guys.

    It is so sad to see what drugs and insecurity can take away from us.