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Whitney Houston’s 1995 VIBE Cover Story (Page 4)

The song conveys the profound happiness of realizing you have the guts to believe that your relationship will never end. It’s a turning point in a person’s life, and Whitney sang it. And she really does believe that love is a possibility for two working people at this point in history. She feels like Waiting to Exhale (for which she recorded two new songs, the sublime single “Exhale” and “Count on Me” a duet with CeCe Winans) addresses many of the ways women are feeling about modern relationships. Exhale, based on Terry McMillan’s best-seller, is the story of four African-American women coming to terms with themselves and their relationships. Women tired of holding their breaths, waiting for their lives to start.

Directed by Forest Whitaker, costarring Angela Bassett and Lela Rochon, the film, according to Houston, is an important movie for sisters, “but for Caucasian sisters as well.” McMillan wanted Whitney to play the resilient Savannah Jackson from the beginning. “Whitney represents something wholesome and down-home,” says the author from her home in Danvill, Calif. “Little-town girl makes it big. There’s an innocence to Whitney, a vulnerability. Sometimes people think it’s false but it isn’t. She takes a lot of criticism with grace and finesse. I’ve watched her.”

Whitney says she is very much Savannah. “Her character is a lot like mine. Savannah’s very serious, a hard worker. Rachel in The Bodyguard– now her world and my world are a lot alike. I understand all that madness and craziness. But just Rachel herself how she is–nothing like me at all. I was more of an actress in Bodyguard than I am in Exhale.”

She says she and Savannah have another thing in common: “I believe in relationships and Exhale does too. But Exhale also says ‘Fuck that. It ain’t like that.’ What your mama taught you, and what her mother may have taught her, is now different. Women are more independent. We had to be. It’s not just about the men going out and being the greatest anymore. Let’s do our thing, together.” She says together as is she’s speaking to men everywhere. “I can’t sit home and cook and watch stories all day like I want to.” She can of course but she wants–and has–a different kind of life.

I tell her lifestyle would be nice though–only half-joking. “It would be very nice,” she says, laughing with me. “But it’s not like that.” Her house is quiet except for Bobbi Kristina and her six-year-old cousin Blaire who chitchat on and on. “I pray that love is real,” Houston tells me, gesturing towards her daughter, a sesame gold toddler in pale yellow play clothes. “I look at her and go, Oh no. This shit’s got  to work. Just look at her.” Whitney goes into a quite mini-mantra. “This has got to be worth fighting for. It’s got to be worth fighting for. It’s got to be worth fighting for.”

Whitney Houston live in Mendhan, N.J. It’s an affluent township right outside a quaint colonial city called Morristown. Mendham has few sidewalks, and the street names aren’t painted on metal signs and attached to tall poles. They’re etched into short granite pillars stuck into the ground.

We’re in the babyproof family room. There are pictures on the wall of Houston and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and L.A. Reid, of her and Michael Jackson. On her sofa, there’s a stuffed panda dressed like a clown. Near it, a tiny red bike with training wheels. It’s Fisher Price city basically–all kinds of stuff for Bobbi Kris, as Whitney calls her, and Bobbi Kris’s cousins and friends. There’s also a photo of Whitney in what must have been 1964 or ’65, back when her dad started calling her Nippie. A full-faced toddler, here hands are clasped in her lap. She’s looking up expectantly.

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