What Whitney wants...
She's got a precious little girl and a hot new movie. She's also got a troubled husband. Now the pop diva tells why she's standing by her man-and why having a new baby means the world to her.
Now don't let Whitney intimidate you!" said a mutual friend. Another advised, "If she talks back to you, don't be surprised. She can be really tough."
After that, I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at New York City's Regency Hotel to meet Whitney Houston. The singer/actress was putting the finishing touches on the gospel soundtrack from her upcoming movie with Denzel Washington, The Preacher's Wife, before returning home to Mendham, NJ, where she and husband Bobby Brown live with their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, 3.
In her suite was a spread fit for a queen-assorted beverages, tea sandwiches, cookies, fruit. I waited a few minutes, and then she slid through the door, model tall, swathed in different shades of tan, her hair tinged with flaming red streaks. She was nothing short of perfection. As were her accessories, from her platinum wristwatch to her diamond bracelets and several amazing rings-one, all eight-carat diamond, her engagement ring from singer Brown.
At 33, Houston has sold a remarkable 86 million records worldwide, and her pop hits-including "The Greatest Love of All, " "I'm Every, Woman, " and "I Will Always Love You "-seem to be playing everywhere. She's also proven her acting ability with winning performances in two blockbuster movies: The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. She reportedly earned $10 million for The Preacher's Wife (a remake of the 1947 classic, The Bishop's Wife). which marks a return to her gospel roots.
On the home,front, however, things have been less smooth. Since her 1992 marriage to Brown, headlines have trumpeted her husband's scrapes with the law, his narrow brush with death in a car accident last summer, and his alcohol rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Center.
But Houston looked serene. She greeted me warmly, in a surprisingly soft-spoken manner. The picture of relaxation, she sat with her feet flat on the carpet, clasping her hands in front of her talking about soul from her soul. It was impossible not to be drawn to her as she talked of standing by her man and how she's brimming with love for her baby girl.
LS: I'm really looking forward to The Preacher's Wife. What attracted you to this role?
WH: I grew up in a church family, and I started singing gospel when I was 5, so I play someone I'm very familiar with. She's a young woman married to a minister in the church where her father was once the preacher. They're having difficulties with their marriage and in building a new church. They pray for help, and God sends them an angel named Dudley, who's portrayed by Denzel Washington.
LS: What was it like to work with Denzel? Everybody wants to know about the Sexiest Man Alive.
WH: You know what'? Nobody's sexy at six in the morning. But Denzel's a great person and great to work with.
LS: Is your husband ever jealous of the men you work with?
WH: Sure. He gets jealous, I think. Not of the guys, but of the fact that I'm working with other men. As I get jealous of him working with other women. It's just something you can't help.
LS: You seem to love being a mother. Has motherhood changed you?
WH: I've grown. I think the changes come when you finally realize you've stopped living for yourself and you're living for someone else. And that you can't eat by yourself anymore, and you can't go to the bathroom by yourself anymore: "Mo-om!" You know, the whole thing. But it's great.
LS: Is your daughter like you?
WH: Yes. And she's very much like Bobby. I say she has her father's fire.
LS: You've got a lot of fire yourself.
WH: Yeah, but he's more outgoing with it. I'm pretty much a churchgoing kind. I'm laid-back.
LS: Is her father crazy about her?
WH: She's got him wrapped around her finger.
LS: How do you and Bobby fit your schedules together to be with her?
WH: We know on a day-to-day basis what we're doing. It's not like every day some surprise thing pops up. But right now Bobby's working in Los Angeles, and I'm working here in New York. It's really hard, because we miss each other immensely. She's with me, but he'll call up and say, "Let me speak to my daughter." I can hear the intensity of, "I'm not with you. I want to be with you. I can't see her." There's that passion.
LS: What values do you want to teach your daughter?
WH: The same things my mother [gospel singer Cissy Houston] taught me: "Above all, to thine own self be true." That's something that's been with me all my life. It matters a great deal.
LS: Are you a different kind of mother from your mother?
WH: No. I find myself saying the same things. I mean, people say that-that you become your mother. Only this is a different day and time, and I have to raise my daughter accordingly.
LS: What about your father [John Houston, now the president and CEO of Houston's company, Nippy, Inc.]? Was he an influence on your life?
WH: Yes, I have a great dad. My father stuck by my mother and was a good friend to her. If my mother had a recording session, he would stay home, dress me, and do my hair. He would put a beautiful dress on me with tube socks-like sweat socks. And my hair would look kind of crooked, but it was cute. He was a very affectionate and loving dad.
LS: Do you and Bobby agree about how to bring up Bobbi Kristina?
WH: For the most part we do.
LS: Does one of you spoil her? WH: It's like: Mommy says "no" and Daddy says "yes." That kind of thing. Because Bobbi's his little girl, and she's the love of his life, and he's the love of her life. It's classic.
LS: What do you worry about most with her?
WH: That somebody's gonna be stronger than I am and influence her and take her away from me. That really drives me crazy. There are so many mean people who have sicknesses. They prey upon our children, and we don't know who or what or where...it's very, very frightening.
LS: Did you enjoy being pregnant with Bobbi Kristina?
WH: I loved every moment of it. I loved it. I had the best time. And I think a lot of it was due to Bobby because he was such a charmer. He was the best friend and the best husband. There was nothing he wouldn't do for me.
LS: You gained almost 60 pounds during that pregnancy. How did you get back in shape?
WH: I went on tour and worked hard. I got onstage for an hour and 25 minutes, four nights a week, and the weight just kind of poured off me. LS: About how long did it take you to get back in shape?
WH: Seven to eight months to get back to nearly my normal size. When I started the tour I was 145 to 150. I dropped to 130.
LS: But you're pretty tall.
WH: Five-eight. But I'm comfortable at 125 to 130.
LS: On a sadder note, you've had two miscarriages [in 1992 and in 1994]. How did you get through those traumas? The first time, you announced you were pregnant and then lost your baby. It must have been terrible.
WH: Yeah, it was. But Bobbi Kristina was born a year later. That's why she's especially precious.
LS: Was Bobby a source of comfort?
WH: Yes. We were really looking forward to that child. I remember he was in California and I was in Florida filming The Bodyguard. I had just miscarried really heavily. I knew it was happening so my mother came down to Florida. She told me to brace myself and to deal with the biological changes that a woman goes through when she's miscarrying, which are very painful. I called Bobby and said, "I think I've lost the baby." He was quiet for a long time. Then he said, "Well, are you okay`? Are you fine? Is everything all right inside? You didn't damage anything, right?" I said, "Yeah, I'm cool." He said, "Well, that's all that matters. We can always have another." He was so compassionate and comforting, that got me through. But it was very difficult, because I had to keep filming.
LS: You've been with Bobby for a long time now. What are the qualities that attracted you to him?
WH: He's a gentle man. You always hear about one side, and the press sees him when he's out somewhere or drinking...
LS: He's got a wild reputation.
WH: Yes, he does. But he's no different from anybody else who likes to have a good time. I don't like to go out as much as Bobby does. He enjoys it.
LS: He is also a singer who had early stardom-he was a teen idol with the R&B group New Edition. Is there any competition between you?
WH: No.We have our careers, which are our livelihoods. But we want to live life, and we want to share with somebody. When I met him I identified with him. We had something in common. It wasn't all about trying to be a star. We wanted to take what we had accomplished and put it together, to share it.
LS: Do you feel you're alike?
WH: Yes. When I get together with his mother, father, and sisters, we all act alike. My family, his family. We do the same things.
LS: How do you handle his being in the headlines? He's been in some violent scenes.
WH: Well, I don't think that every time Bobby steps out that he intends to get into some of the things that happen. know that he doesn't.
LS: Are you ever physically afraid for him?
WH: Sometimes, sure. There's an element of street out there, and I know the streets myself. My mother took me and put me in an all-girls school and said, "No, girl. You're going this way, and this is what we're gonna do here."
LS: Well, you stood by him when he went in and out of
rehab in the fall of 1995. This has happened in so many American families. Could you
advise a woman who loves someone
WH: Stand by him. It's not just the good times that matter. It's the not-so-good too. That's no reason to not want to be with someone you love. It's a reason to stay. It's a reason to love him and to want to be there. Bobby's been there for me, and I'll be there for him. And that's what we committed to in marriage-to be there, through it all.
LS: But you haven't had the kind of public misfortunes he's had.
WH: Forget about fame for a second. Just look at me as a
woman. When I did The Bodyguard I was so scared. I was really nervous. It was a new
plateau. It was a lot of
When there are things I don't understand or things I am going through, Bobby's such a good person to talk to. He has a certain realism about life and the world in the street. At moments like that you remember what somebody means to you.
LS: Do you feel put upon by the media? Do you feel that they have pushed you around?
WH: Yes. They haven't been very kind. They haven't been kind to my husband at all. A lot of what's printed about Bobby is so untrue. We're sitting there in our home, and they're saying he's someplace else doing something, and he's not.
LS: Is there a reason that you think you've been singled out? WH: Fame is a curious game. I don't know.
LS: Well, Bobby's like a lightning rod for the press. WH: I don't think they expected me and Bobby to get together. I don't know what they thought I was looking for. But basically all I wanted was love. I wasn't trying to be Princess Di. I was looking for something real.
LS: Sometimes it seems like you are portrayed as a woman blinded by love.
WH: I really hate that. Or that I'm hanging on in an obviously unsuitable relationship, and why don't I just get out. Maybe negativity sells best-I don't know. But people say the cruelest things: He's doing this; I'm doing that. Like we're living these immoral, messed-up lives. It hurts.
LS: It's great the way you talk about Bobby. WH: Well, I wouldn't sit here and tell you this if it were not a part of my life. if it were not true. Bobby is a real individual, and that's what I love. But I don't feel the media portray him in the proper manner. They don't know him. IRS: People are wrong?
WH: They are. I wish they'd get it, though. Maybe I think they should know ie better. That I'm not crazy, and I don't live foolishly. But I'm radical in my own way
LS: It's great to see somebody who loves her mate. WH: Yes, I do. I love him to death. LS: Tell me, what is Whitney's biggest extravagance.
WH: Oooh! I shouldn't tell. But my husband says it's shopping.
LS: How many places do you live now? New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida?
WH: We have a home in Atlanta, but we're selling it. Florida and Jersey seem to be enough right now.
LS: Where are you the happiest?
WH: Wherever my husband is, my child is.
LS: You finance the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children. What does it do?
WH: It supports children of all ages. Anywhere I can help - whether it's an abuse situation or a child with AIDS or a mother who needs help taking care of her children. I love kids. I've always had a concern for young people.
LS: What do you want to do next in your life?
WH: I'm gonna have a baby, that's what I want to do. I
want another baby, so my daughter
LS: How many children would you like to have?
WH: I really just want two. Three would be okay, but then that's uneven.
LS: Are you saving money for the future? Are you gonna be a rich old lady?
WH: Yeah, I hope so. I hope all this wasn't for nothing. I
hope I can sit back one day and rock in my chair, me and my husband, and laugh at it all.
On November 13, 1996,
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