Whitney Houston’s 1995 VIBE Cover Story (Page 5)

Bobbi Kristina talks (“I’m two!”) goes up and down the stairs, and gets bossy with everyone. She can scream like crazy, this offspring of Whitney and Bobby, the couple that’s just too odd for folks to get over. “They had it already set up,” Houston says, picking up Bobbi Kris and sitting her on the table. “Who they thought I should be with, I mean.”

Who, I wonder–Costner?

“I’m not the one to be talking about black and white issues,” she says, “Because I don’t come with a lot of that. But well all know who runs this whole thing–we all know who’s in power right? Well when they saw me they saw me as their little princess and [figured] ‘She’s going to marry a white man,’ or whatever.” Houston says she’s tried to tell people who she is. “I come from Newark, born and raised in New Hope Baptist Church. All-girl school, mostly white girl, yeah–but this is what I am. This is what I’m used to. This is what I like. What you all may think it is, it ain’t. Whoever set this little story up before I got here, it’s changed. It’s different. I’m not Diana [Ross]. I’m not.”

She says, too, that she knew there would drama surrounding her and Brown’s marriage, but not the furor. “I didn’t know they would go as low as dogging my husband for some stuff he never did–the lies they told on him–like that he doesn’t take care of his kids–that make him look like a lowlife.” Whitney’s piqued. She’s protective of Brown. Like most women in love, what most people perceive as his weakness, Houston believes are Brown’s strengths.

“I’ve got a good man,” she says forcefully. “He takes care of me. I don’t have to be scared of anything because I know he will kick every ass–” she pauses and then, all intense, she says, “I’m telling you, disrespect him and you’ve got a problem. All they can catch him doing is tearing somebody’s ass up, or ripping out a door, because he’s pissed off at being disrespected. He doesn’t like to be disrespected. He has a temper from hell.” And that, for whatever reason, is okay with her.

“I love my sexy baby,” she says of Brown, smiling big. “And then some.” Whitney Houston’s been got. And it looks like that kind of love that no on else can tell you shit about–’cause you know. Because you’re up in it. “We got our thing. We do our thing.” And, she tell me, “You can make it work.”

We’ve been talking about how women of color are often too accepting so as not to take the spotlight off racism. About how we sometimes get caught up staring at the idea of subordination, toying with it, and wondering if that’s what it take to maintain a relationship with a man. We talk about all that, and about how we’re still trying to be, like Des’ree says, bad, bold, wiser, tough, strong, together.

Houston cuts through my little rhetoric, though, right to the chase. “The independence of black women,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone, “is very difficult for black men.”

I ask her how much then, does it fall to us to compromise. She cuts me off, but doesn’t have an answer. “I ask myself that too,” she says. But then she tells me there are other places I can go to get my question addressed. “You have to talk to Diahann Carol one day. Or Lena Horne. I’ve talked to those ladies. They give you the story: This is what you have to deal with if you want to do this. You got to put up with and deal with this certain kind of thing because this is what happens.” And all Whitney’s enigmatic “thises” seem to stand for “Just let” and “Sssssshhhh” and “He needs to feel big so make yourself small is you want him to stay.”

“A friend of mine told me recently…” Whitney begins–and she’s imploring now. Serious. Bobbi Kris has long since gone back upstairs where Lori, Houston’s assistant, is taking care. “..Told me that when you feel your spirit being sucked dry, when you feel the spirit God gave you being taken away–that’s when it’s not right, and you have to let go. That’s when you have to let it go.

She’s vague; she’s got to be. She can’t just be telling me all her business (like I told her mine). But it is lovely to fantasize about how things could be–no more competition, no more resentment, no more folks thinking that just because a woman is busy, and has her own ideas, and tries to make herself happy, that she can’t be a girlfriend or a wife. “I want things to change like last week,” she says smiling. We do a high-five–but just a little one, because it’s just a little victory, fantasizing.

And then there’s no more smile and Whitney is staring at me dead on. She’s getting a little antsy, but she emphasizes what she wants to emphasize. Houston, the singer, the actress, the daughter, the mother, the wife–she knows who she is.

“You ask me, can relationships be?” She stands up. “Can they exist? Well sometimes they just can’t,” she says. “‘Cause I’m going to be me. I’m going to do what I do. And if you love me, you’re not not going to want to take that from me.”

Is she talking about Bobby Brown? I don’t know. My next line is a lame “I heard that.” Because no matter who else she’s speaking of, Whitney Houston is mostly speaking about herself. And I hear her.

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