May 19, 2024

The Whitney Houston Biopic Actually Celebrates Her Sexuality – And I’m So Relieved

Whitney Houston met Robyn Crawford in her late teens outside a community centre near her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. In her tell-all memoir, A Song For You, Crawford says the two shared “an instant connection. ”

They eventually became secret lovers, then flatmates, then (as Whitney’s star was rising) business partners but first and foremost, throughout the two decades before their estrangement, they remained best friends always.

It was hard to watch Whitney be sexualised before she’d even come to terms with her own sexuality. Still, it was a necessity to include it in the film since it rings true for most black women living in Western worlds, where our bodies are commodified and fetishised sometimes as early as infancy.

We see Whitney’s parents, especially her father, begin to take particular interest in her appearance after she signs her first record deal, urging her to wear her hair longer, and choose dresses over jeans, all the while insisting that she’s his princess. This pet name seems to make Whitney uncomfortable. Even more disappointing is her parents’ open disapproval of Robyn, who waits patiently in the wings, supporting Whitney all throughout her come up.

At a pivotal point in the film, Whitney invites Robyn on tour with her as her creative assistant, and Robyn says hesitantly,  “Your mom won’t be happy; she hates me. ”

The Whitney Houston Biopic Actually Celebrates Her Sexuality And I'm So Relieved

Instead, they seek permission from Whitney’s father, who isn’t best pleased about it either. After picking Robyn apart, showing his open disdain for her tomboy dress sense and asking, “Do you always wear your hair that short? ” He tells them both that it can only work if they go out and find boyfriends.

“You need to be seen with your men,” he says, much to Robyn’s disgust. Ever the daddy’s girl, Whitney obliges and starts sleeping with Jermaine Jackson shortly after. It’s then that her bisexuality becomes clear. She’s still very much in love with Robyn, yet she isn’t faking her attraction to Jermaine either.

When Robyn confronts her, wounded by the apparent betrayal, Whitney begins to quote the bible, showing how staunch religious upbringings often lead to traumatic internalised homophobia, especially in racialized people.

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