On Blaming Bobby Brown
Ask Demetria: It's easy to point fingers at Whitney's ex, but ultimately, she chose her own path.
Houston was beautiful, and before she diminished her voice with cigarettes and drugs, she could sing really, really well. But don't let the beauty and/or the talent fool you. Neither guarantees self-esteem or smart choices or removes accountability from anyone for his or her actions.
We've watched too many Hollywood films if we're buying into the trope that Houston was an ingenue who was seduced and then hoodwinked, bamboozled and led astray by Brown, who, at a mere 23, was five years her junior and a father of three when they married. At that time, Houston was a month shy of 29, and she'd been in the entertainment business -- notorious for being a cutthroat environment -- for more than a decade and was winning.
This is a woman who, in a legendary radio interview, went toe-to-toe with Wendy Williams back in the day -- long before Williams was a middle-aged mom made palatable for middle America -- and won! In an Esquire obituary, Houston's onetime bestie (and, it is alleged, onetime girlfriend) Robyn Crawford said of Houston, "People thought they had to protect her. She hated that. And that's what people don't understand: She was the one doing the driving ... she did what she wanted to do." At Houston's funeral, personal friends backed up that assessment, remembering Houston as a woman who called her own shots -- even when they were to her detriment.
By Houston's own telling in a confessional 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Houston began using drugs before her relationship with Brown, whom she referred to as "her drug" of choice and her "partner" when it came to getting high. It was in 1992, the year she married Brown and released The Bodyguard, that her drug use progressed to "heavy" -- Houston's euphemism for smoking marijuana combined with cocaine.
In that same interview, she took on the accountability that her fans hesitate to extend to her, even in death. "When he said something, I listened," Houston said of her then husband. "I was very interested in having someone have that kind of control over me. It was refreshing."
That is undoubtedly a disturbing mindset, and a recipe for disaster for most women, especially those who put a "bad ass" at the helm. But it was also a path that Whitney chose for herself.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.