Happy Birthday, Whitney: Not The Diva, The Brown Girl


Whitney was one of us. She was undeniably black in a culture that subtly skews towards the racially ambiguous. We still don’t know what her “real hair” looks like because she too had issues with it, and her body mirrored my own mother’s–a bean pole except in the hips and ass. She would later add the line in Waiting To Exhale: “If I had some real nerve I buy myself some bigger breasts.” Whitney could’ve been that crazy auntie who chain-smoked, always knew how to get the party started and could sing her ass off. Only I don’t think she ever saw that.

Whitney was about the show. When she was “on,” she was on and expected everyone around her to either come up to her level or step aside. It was when the consummate performer was “off” that ruined it for everyone. Like so many of us little brown girls, there was a hurt in Whitney. A void she tried to fill with the love of a toxic man and later a young and reckless one. In between? Drugs.

I wonder if she ever truly saw the miracle that she was. Beginning at a church in Newark, our beloved star journeyed to the Super Bowl to The Bodyguard to side-by-side with Nelson Mandela in South Africa; Whitney was living proof to all of us little brown girls that we too were good enough. Only I don’t think she ever truly believed that. Despite the fame, adoration and overwhelming praise her talent and hard work had brought her, she continued to search for something to love her, soothe her, until it finally took her life. And that angers me.

I was reminded of this again just yesterday as I rode the NYC 4 express train downtown sitting across from two young brown girls deep in conversation. They spoke a little too loud, every other word a curse while recalling the night before. There had been a fight over a guy. As I looked at the bruises on one girls arm, I wished she–much like Whitney–could see herself for what she truly is, a miracle.

So on today, Thursday August 9th–as we prepare to see Sparkle–I’m wishing Happy Birthday not to the world renown Diva whose voice helped soundtrack my childhood. No. My wishes are for the little brown girl who never knew just how special she really was. There are so many of us out there. I hope the next little brown girl to make it, gets it right.–@JasFly