NEWSWEEK INTERVIEW - Whitney on the Record
The diva reflects and rages on rumors and her music.
Whitney Houston is a little wound up. Sitting in an
elegant suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, she's got the wear and tear of recording
an album, as well as keeping up with her 5- year-old daughter and the rest of her family,
written across her face. Houston has been busy promoting her fourth album, "My Love
Is Your Love," her first non-soundtrack CD in eight years. The singer rounded up the
brightest stars of R&B and hip-hop to write, sing and produce, and the result is all
the "flava" a fan could want.
Houston's voice is a treasure and is only highlighted by
mellow tracks like "Heartbreak Hotel," which couples her with Faith Evans and
Kelly Price. Rapper-producer Missy Elliot offers up two saucy tunes, "In My
Business" and "Oh Yes." And Lauryn Hill and Wyclef give the album a funky,
multicultural vibe. But Houston's at her best when in the loving care of her longtime
collaborators Babyface and songwriter Diane Warren. She sat down with NEWSWEEK's Allison
Samuels to talk.
NEWSWEEK: Some people describe "My Love Is
Your Love" as a hip-hop album because you have Wyclef, Faith and Lauryn Hill.
HOUSTON: Well, I've gone from singing too white to R&B diva, and now I'm hip-hop. I
guess it's flattering to know that I can sing it all. My mother always said if you can
sing you can sing. Having a church background has allowed me to be able to sing every
note, every lyric. I'm not a hip-hop buyer. But I love Mary J. Blige--I love the best of
hip-hop. To me, Wyclef is not hip-hop--Faith is not hip-hop. Music is a wide range. My
husband can rap, sing and dance. He can do it all, and that's what I think of all these
artists--they can do it all.
Is this album more about your life than the last
three soundtracks ["The Bodyguard," "Waiting to Exhale" and "The
All those songs were me. I've turned down thousands of songs because they aren't me. All
the characters in the films I've done were, in a sense, really me. "Preacher's
Wife" was definitely me. I have to feel songs, or I won't sing them. "Why Does
It Hurt So Bad" ["Waiting to Exhale"] was a song that Babyface wrote years
ago, and I didn't sing it because I hadn't hurt that bad. But "Face" just held
on to it, and then of course one day I hurt so bad and it was time to sing that song.
This is your daughter Bobbi Kristina's first year
Yes, she's growing up so fast. And she has such a vast vocabulary. When she was young I
always talked normal to her, never down to her, and I made sure that others did as well.
So she's very together and she's like her father, so all the kids love her. She's a people
person. I was there every day doing the car pools and going on field trips to the apple
orchards. If I can't make the parent-teacher meetings, my mother will fill in. But I try
to make all the school events. After December I'm going to take a break and chill out and
maybe try for another child. I'd like a boy, because boys are so fierce and loyal to their
mothers. But I'll take anything God sends me.
With the constant scrutiny and rumors about your
life, do you ever wonder if it's worth it?
I was talking to Joe Pesci the other night--we're both from New Jersey, and we were
talking about being a regular person years ago and how we wanted the fame and fortune. But
then we got it--we lost our lives. He wondered if we'd made the right choice. I think it's
fair to say it's been more than I bargained for--I didn't ask anybody to be up in my world
or in my business. It's not fair that our brothers and sisters-in-law get calls offering
$100,000 for information about us. But we are beginning to get a little more respect after
six years of marriage. [The media] sees it's not a game; they see that some people get
married for real and for love. We have our ups and downs like anybody else. But it's about
staying together. I'm Mrs. Bobby Brown and not the other way around. That's not going to
Your next film is "Anything for Love,"
with Will Smith. What's it about? Who will direct?
I'd like for my friend Penny Marshall to direct it, because she's brilliant.
"Anything for Love" is a story about a man and a woman who divorce because he
hasn't gotten all the play out of him yet, and he realizes that he really loves her and
needs her back. It's very cute and funny, and I hope that both Will and I will have our
mates involved in every way. I want Bobby on the soundtrack and Will on the soundtrack and
Jada in the movie--it should be fun.
We talked about rumors before, and one that seems
to be getting stronger is the one about you and drugs. Why?
I think because with people, it gotta be one thing or another. If we're not fighting or
screwing around, then we're on drugs. I'm not going to tell you that Bobby and I are
angels, because we're not. But we don't go out in the street and make our stuff public
knowledge. No, I'm not a drug addict, and neither is my husband. If that were so, you'd
get less work out of me. It would show in the performances and in the work. A lot of what
we go through is stress. When I'm stressed I don't eat, and I guess that makes people
think I'm on drugs. Some people eat; I don't. But there is no problem, no reason for me
to, like, check in. My mother is very up on it, and my mother isn't having that. If there
were a problem, she'd take control and do something.
Those rumors sort of started when you canceled on
"The Rosie O'Donnell Show."
I was very ill around that time, and my father was very sick. [There was] a lot of stress
coming down on me at that point in time. The morning I was supposed to do
"Rosie" I wasn't fit to do "Rosie," and I figured that if I'm not
presentable and if I'm not feeling it from here [points to her heart], than I'm going to
do worse damage to myself by appearing. Rosie and I had a conversation about it, 'cause
Rosie was mouthing off about a lot of stuff that we straightened out. But I don't hang
with Rosie, and Rosie doesn't hang with me. I haven't been to her house for dinner, and
she hasn't been to my house for dinner. Rosie knows nothing about me, and I don't know
nothing about Rosie. So nobody can talk anything about me that ain't in my house. I was
sick--it happens--forget what you heard. We've straightened it out fine now.
Newsweek, November 23, 1998