Whitney on tour with new style, new attitude

September 1999


Singer Whitney Houston is profiled. She is currently taking the music world by storm with her first concert tour in five years.

Copyright Johnson Publishing Company Sep 1999

WITH five-octave vocals, a dazzling production and high-style dance and fashion, Whitney Houston is taking the music world by storm with her first concert tour in five years. No one is surprised by the success of the tour or the brilliance of Whitney's voice. But the divine diva is creating quite a stir around the world, and her concert tickets are in great demand.

Kicking off in Chicago, and going on to thrill sold-out audiences in Detroit, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Memphis, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities, she and her entourage have crisscrossed the country and created glowing headlines in the process. She is about to take the spectacular show to Europe, where a ticket frenzy already is in motion. Whitney is delivering a great show and passionately demonstrating to fans that she still has what it takes to keep an audience enthralled. She is accompanied by four
dancers, four backup singers and a six-piece band. Adding even more glitz to the glamour is Whitney's fabulous wardrobe from designers Dolce and Gabbana. Draped in furs and feathers, sequins and rhinestones, Houston is decked out in slinky, body-revealing gowns and catsuits, jeweled Capri pants, sheer blouses and overskirts, ornate hip-hugging belts, sexy stilettos and snakeskin boots.

The couture wardrobe flatters her slim figure but does not detract from the star of the show: The Voice. That wondrous instrument, along with Whitney's strong delivery and charismatic stage presence, enthralls and enthuses the packed audiences, inspiring thunderous applause, standing ovations and shouts of approval. That voice also has sold more than 100 million records around the world and earned Houston a pedestal on top of the pop music industry.

During a day off from the tour, Whitney spends a sunny afternoon at a Connecticut restaurant with husband Bobby Brown. With braided hair swept under a scarf, she is casually dressed in knit pants and feeling good after recovering from a throat ailment that caused the cancellation of her Washington, D.C., show. The previous night she gave a glorious performance in Boston and has a couple of days off before she goes on in Hartford.

While enjoying a meal of stuffed crab, lobster, baked potato, coleslaw and fried clams ("Oh, yes, we are throwing down!"), she reveals that she has mixed emotions about the tour. "I love performing; that's what I do," she says. "I love singing and I love it with my soul. The actual touring part is a strain. If you can just keep your focus on what you really love to do and what you're out here for, it can be a joyous thing. It can feel good to you. Because you get that love that you can't get from just being in a recording studio.

"You get that love from the people. It lets me know that all the madness I go through, all the stuff that the business has to offer with all its madness; it makes it worthwhile."

Whitney adds that this time out she wanted to do theaters rather than arenas; most of the venues have seating for 5,000 to 6,000 people. "I wanted to be closer to the people, more intimate," she explains. "I'm a singer and I'm an interpreter. I like for people to know what I've got on, to hear what I'm singing . . . I wanted to play places where people could come
and intimately hear me and see me. It's been a long time."

In fact, her last tour was five years ago in 1994. At that time she played large arenas, and had no problem filling them up. Since then she has toured overseas and performed at special events, in videos and on television, including several HBO specials and the recent VHI Divas Live '99. This time out, Whitney's show is infused with hiphop rhythms, and she appears to genuinely have fun stepping with her sassy dancers (one of whom is sister-in-law Carolyn Brown) and pla,fully interacting with the talented band and backup
singers. From the stage she acknowledges that she is not a dancer-"I'm a singer; that's what I do best"-and she saves her energy for just that.

That energy and her vibrant personality shine through in each song-the hurt lover on "Heartbreak Hotel," the streetwise Sister-friend on "In My Business," the passionate diva on "I Will Always Love You," the megahit from The Bodyguard movie soundtrack, the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time. Throughout the two-hour, 20song performance, Whitney sashays and struts, preaches and teaches, scolds and jokes.

About midway through the concert, she brings the audience to its feet with three gospel songs, including the exhilarating "The Rock" from The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, the bestselling gospel album in Billboard chart history, and it is clear that this artist grew up singing in the church. During U.S. concert dates, daughter Bobbi Kristina, age 6, joined her onstage for the reggae-flavored "My Love Is Your Love" (written and produced by
Wyclef Jean), and the youngster performs her part by encouraging the audience to "clap your hands." After getting a kiss from mom, Krissy took her bows and left the stage as the proud mother exclaimed, "That's my baby, me and Bobby's baby!"

During the interview at the restaurant, Whitney explains that she is not pushing her daughter into show business prematurely, but that Bobbi Kristina asked to participate and that already she is showing an inclination for performing. "She gets her clothes ready for the show, gets her hair done," says Mother Whitney. "She knows when it's time for her to go on. She preps herself. She's a diva-in-training. With her little lip gloss on. Very light
pink. Girl, she's got the bug. Bobby says she got it honestly."

Bobby, the proud father and husband, interjects, "She has the genes of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and it would be hard for her not to want to be onstage, not to want to sing," he says. "I love it. She's got it and ain't no sense in holding it back . . . And she has us to watch over her and show her exactly what to do and what not to do. We know our mistakes. We're not going to push it [performing] on her, but she's trying to push
it on us."

Whitney grew up singing in a Baptist church in Newark, N.J., mentored by her mother, gospel and RB singer Cissy Houston (who at times joins Whitney on the tour). With the release of her first album on Arista in 1985, Whitney sang her way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Bobby also started performing as a youngster. He was a member of the very successful teen group New Edition, and then went on to release several solo albums. The couple married in 1992.

After the U.S. portion of the tour concludes this fall, Whitney will head to Europe where she will continue to perform. Although her daughter traveled with her, Krissy must remain at home this fall so that she can start first grade. Leaving her daughter thousands of miles behind will be difficult, says Whitney, who has become quite adept at juggling the duties of motherhood and marriage with her career.

And the confident Sister-diva continues to ignore naysayers who have been critical of her union with Brown since before they even got married. "They  say nay, I say yeah," Whitney says in between bites of lobster. "I'm still married, and I'm still in love. We're still in love, and if nobody understands that, I'm sorry. There is a thing called love. Everybody knows about it. You get it or don't get it. I don't care anymore. It doesn't matter. We
have a beautiful family, we have a good time, and we enjoy each other. That's what it's about."

Bobby chimes in, "All I can say is that they don't live with us; they never have," he says of critics. "Obviously they don't know love because if they knew love, they could look in our eyes and tell, without even reading the paper or listening to the tabloids or thinking about things that have happened personally with us. I think just our eyes tell it. Our actions speak louder than words. Judge us on that. Don't judge us on what you read. A lot of
different things have been said about me, especially in the last few months, that have been total bulls---, and please excuse my French. I'd like to just tell them to back off for a little while and see how long it lasts. Leave us alone and let us work this out. Let us do what we do best, and that is loving each other.

"If they, the naysayers, would just do that, then I promise they'll get more music from her, they'll get more movies from us, they'll get eventhing they deserve. But it just takes them to back off and give us our space. Stop being cruel . . . It's our prerogative to love each other," he says, using a play on the titles of two of his most popular songs. "We can put
all this in song. She wants to dance with somebody who loves her."

During lunch, Bobby comments that his wife looks younger and prettier each year. When asked if she's been working out to keep her tall, slender frame trim, Whitney says no, that she simply is blessed with good metabolism. "If I pass 130 pounds, I feel heavy," she explains. "I can't breathe properly when I'm singing. I like to be at 125 to 128 pounds; more than that is not good for me. But I eat bread, which is my weakness. I love bread. Right
now I'm having bread with butter and honey. I eat like a pig.

My metabolism just burns it off pretty good."

And Whitney is not idle long enough for the pounds to creep up on her. In recent years, she has starred in several successful movies, including Waiting To Exhale, The Bodyguard and The Preacher's Wife. The soundtracks from each of those movies also have zoomed to the top of the music charts. In fact, her new CD, My Love Is Your Love (5 million copies sold), is the first recording she has released in eight years that is not tied to a movie
project. The new album has won new fans with the edgy, hip-hop flavor of some of the songs, and Whitney says that she was delighted to work with such a wide range of talented young writers and producers. They included enneth (Babyface) Edmonds (who previously has written hits for her), Wyclef Jean of the Fugees, hip-hop divas Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott, and Rodney Jerkins, another young superproducer who wrote several tunes for Whitney and also penned the Brandy-Monica hit, "The Boy Is Mine."

"How proud I am of my Sisters, of our geniuses," Whitney says of Hill and Elliott. "They are the products of our mamas of America, the ones who raised these ladies with goals set high and with no limit. There is no limit now. They write; they produce. There was a time when we women were limited in a lot of areas. But we have come up and stood alongside our Brothers who are geniuses and who are successful. Women do a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation to get to where we are, so we can stand strong with
our men."

After she concludes the international leg of her tour, Whitney will return home to New Jersey and put the finishing touches on a greatest hits recording.  A romantic comedy movie project for which she is collaborating with Will Smith is in final rewrite, and she hopes to start filming next spring. In addition, she says that she and Bobby are commissioned to do another project for Disney. Their Brownhouse production company co-produced the successful Cinderella television movie that starred Whitney and Brandy.

In addition, Bobby has a new recording scheduled for release this fall, and he says he is planning a one-man show for 2000. "It will be similar to what Sammy Davis did back in the day, when he did his one-man show," Bobby says. "I got the idea from doing Bojangles on HBO [during Whitney's special]. I feel that I have enough talent to hold a crowd for at least
two hours, with singing, dancing, acting and comedy."

This talented couple have a lot on their plates, but they also have a lot of love, confidence and faith. "It is wellknown that I depend on my faith," says Whitney when asked about the secret to her phenomenal success. "My faith makes me determined to keep going because, as you know, the opposers can discourage you. But God is an encouragement, and once you know Him, nothing that the devil or anybody can put against you will work. For if God is for you, no man can be against you. I know this for a fact. This
is what keeps me going."



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