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Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody: History vs. Hollywood


Naomi Ackie
Born: November 2, 1992
Walthamstow, London, England, UK

Whitney Houston
Born: August 9, 1963
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA
Death: February 11, 2012, Beverly Hills, California, USA

Stanley Tucci
Born: November 11, 1960
Peekskill, New York, USA

Clive Davis
Born: April 4, 1932
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Bio: Record Executive who Discovered Whitney

Clarke Peters
Born: April 7, 1952
New York City, New York, USA

John Houston
Born: September 13, 1920
Birthplace: Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Death: February 2, 2003, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (complications from diabetes and heart disease)

Tamara Tunie
Born: March 14, 1959
McKeesport, Pennsylvania, USA

Cissy Houston
Born: September 30, 1933
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Ashton Sanders
Born: October 24, 1995
Carson, California, USA

Bobby Brown
Born: February 5, 1969
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Nafessa Williams
Born: December 4, 1989
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Robyn Crawford
Born: December 17, 1960
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Bria Danielle Singleton
Born: December 23, 2005
Long Beach City, California, USA

Bobbi Kristina Brown
Born: March 4, 1993
Birthplace: Livingston, New Jersey, USA
Death: July 26, 2015, Duluth, Georgia, USA (lobar pneumonia)

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

Was Whitney Houston discovered by Clive Davis when she stepped in to open a show for her mother?

The Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody true story confirms that Clive Davis discovered her. Like in the movie, it happened at a club called Sweetwaters where her mother, Cissy Houston, was the star of the show and Whitney was one of her mother's background singers. In an interview with CNN, the real Clive Davis said that Whitney had been scheduled to do "two songs in the middle of her mother's act." She was given her choice of material. "She sang two songs, one was 'Home' from the Broadway show The Wiz and the other was 'The Greatest Love of All'."

Davis said of witnessing the latter that he was amazed that Whitney found more meaning in that song than when he had commissioned it to be written. "This was a unique vocalist who was breathing fire and soul and heart into a song I was so familiar with. ... I knew that her gift was unique, without question." In the movie, Whitney steps in to do the show for her mother when her mother fakes a bout of laryngitis. Whitney Houston's mother did trick her into doing a show but not the night that Davis saw her perform. It happened prior to that when her mother was scheduled to perform at Mikell's, a jazz club in New York City.

The real Whitney Houston (left) is pictured during her first TV appearance, which took place on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983. Actress Naomi Ackie (right) depicts the legendary singer in the movie.

Had Whitney Houston been sexually abused as a child?

In the 2018 Whitney documentary, her personal assistant, Mary Jones, claimed that Whitney had told her that Dionne Warwick's sister, Dee Dee Warwick (Whitney's cousin), had sexually molested her and her brother Gary when she was "at a young age" and Gary was about eight. Dee Dee Warwick would have been in her mid to late 20s at the time. Both Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston's mother Cissy expressed doubt with regard to the validity of the allegations. In her book, A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston, former best friend Robyn Crawford also doubted the claim, saying that Whitney would have told her if Dee Dee had abused her.

Was Whitney Houston really criticized for her music "not being black enough"?

Yes. Like in the Whitney Houston movie, an I Wanna Dance with Somebody fact-check confirms that some black critics and listeners criticized Houston's music and called it "not black enough", saying that she was a black star in a white pop world. They labeled her a sellout. Some black radio stations even refused to play her albums. Race profiteer Al Sharpton called her "Whitey" Houston. She faced this criticism in public when some in the audience booed her at the 1989 Soul Train Awards, a moment that friends say left a wound in her that never healed.

Houston maintained that she wasn't singing for any particular group, but for everyone. "I don't know how to sing black—and I don't know how to sing white, either. I know how to sing. Music is not a color to me," she famously commented. Her remark is repeated nearly word for word by Naomi Ackie's character in the film. In 1991, Houston told Ebony, "I know what my color is. I was raised in a black community with black people, so that has never been a thing with me. Yet, I've gotten flak about being a pop success, but that doesn't mean that I'm white....Pop music has never been all-white." She was quoted in Essence as saying, "If you're gonna have a long career, there's a certain way to do it and I did it that way. I'm not ashamed of it."

This 1991 headline questions whether Whitney Houston's music is black enough.

At the same time that Houston was being singled out, other black artists, including Michael Jackson, had become huge pop stars but faced far less scrutiny.

Was Whitney Houston a lesbian?

The Naomi Ackie Whitney Houston movie dedicates a significant amount of time to a lesbian relationship between Whitney Houston and her friend Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams), which Houston keeps suppressed due to fears of the public's reaction. In answering the question, "Is Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody accurate?" we learned that in real life, Crawford met Houston when they were both working as camp counselors at an East Orange, New Jersey summer camp in 1980. They became best friends and remained close as Houston rose to fame, with Crawford becoming Houston's roommate and executive assistant. Houston described her as the "sister I never had." Rumors began to swirl that the two might be lovers. However, they both denied the assertion during an interview with TIME magazine in 1987.

"I tell my family, 'You can hear anything on the streets, but if you don't hear it from me, it's not true,'" Robyn Crawford told the publication. Whitney Houston offered a similar response, "My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone tells a lie about you, don't fight it. I'm not with any man. I'm not in love. People see Robyn with me, and they draw their own conclusions. Anyway, whose business is it if you're gay or like dogs? What others do shouldn't matter. Let people talk. It doesn't bother me because I know I'm not gay. I don't care."

Whitney Houston's best friend and executive assistant Robyn Crawford (left) is portrayed by Nafessa Williams (right) in the movie.

New revelations about their relationship emerged more than three decades later in 2019, seven years after Whitney Houston's death. In Robyn Crawford's biography A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston, she claims that when they were teenagers (prior to Houston signing her first recording deal), their relationship had included sexual activity that faded as they prioritized Houston's career. Crawford recalls Houston telling her that they could no longer be physical because "it would make our journey even more difficult," with Houston adding that her career would be in jeopardy if the public found out. Crawford says that Houston told her she also wanted children one day and feared "living that kind of life meant we would go to Hell." Crawford's assertions have now widely been accepted as fact, despite Houston not being around to corroborate the claims.

In his 2016 memoir, Bobby Brown claims that Whitney Houston was "bisexual." In a 2016 interview with US Magazine to promote his book, Brown indicated that he knew that Whitney Houston had been in a same-sex relationship with Robyn Crawford. "I know. We were married for 14 years. There are some things we talked about that were personal to us." At the same time, Brown made sure to emphasize that she also liked men, stating, "I'm a man and she was attracted to me!"

Does Naomi Ackie sing in I Wanna Dance with Somebody?

No. During our exploration into the Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody true story, we learned that Naomi Ackie lip-synchs to Whitney Houston's voice. Still, Ackie received criticism when a movie clip was released of her depicting Whitney Houston singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991. Despite lip-synching the song, some fans pointed out that she lacked the passion that was visible on the face of the real Whitney Houston. Ackie, who previously starred in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was also criticized because she is British and not a black American like Houston.

Whitney Houston (left) sings the National Anthem in 1991 at the Super Bowl. Naomi Ackie recreates the performance for the film.

Did Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy Houston, try to have Robyn Crawford fired?

Yes. In his 2016 memoir Every Little Step, Bobby Brown said that Whitney's mother, Cissy Houston, didn't approve of the idea that her daughter might be in a lesbian relationship with her best friend and executive assistant, Robyn Crawford. Brown said that Cissy insisted that Robyn be fired. In 2013, Cissy told Oprah Winfrey it "absolutely" would have bothered her if Whitney was a lesbian and she would not have approved of it. Bobby Brown believes that Whitney would still be around today if Robyn had been accepted into her life. "She didn't have close friends with her anymore," Brown said of Whitney in her final years.

Did Clive Davis encourage Whitney Houston to remake Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" for the Bodyguard soundtrack?

In the movie, Whitney Houston's record producer, Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci), tells her that he doesn't feel her voice is being showcased enough in The Bodyguard. He says that her co-star, Kevin Costner, suggested that she remake the Dolly Parton song "I Will Always Love You" for the movie. Davis hands her a portable cassette player so that she can listen to Dolly Parton perform the song.

A Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody fact-check reveals that it's true that Kevin Costner suggested she remake "I Will Always Love You" for The Bodyguard. However, Costner played her Linda Ronstadt's version from 1975, not the original by Dolly Parton. The image of Whitney in the I Wanna Dance with Somebody cast vs. real people section at the top of this page is from her "I Will Always Love You" music video.

In 1994, Whitney Houston (left) became the first major artist to perform in post-apartheid South Africa.

Did Whitney Houston's father stab her in the back?

Many of Whitney Houston's family members and friends had become leeches, attempting to benefit from the fruits of her success, especially her money. She had given her father a lot of money and even bought him a house that he lived in with Whitney's stepmother, Barbara Houston. Despite her generosity, he reportedly stole from her.

In 2002, Whitney was sued for $100 million by John Houston Enterprise, the company that her father had started to manage her career. It was run by Kevin Skinner, the company's president. The suit alleged that Whitney had failed to pay the company its compensation for helping to negotiate her $100 million contract with Arista Records and for assisting her with legal matters. Whitney stated that her father was not involved in the lawsuit but Skinner claimed otherwise. The suit was thrown out in April 2004 and Skinner didn't receive a dime.

In a 2002 interview with Extra, John Houston said that he was indeed seeking money he believed Whitney owed him. During the interview, he had a message for Whitney, "You get your act together, honey, and you pay me the money that you owe me. If you do that, you haven't got a lawsuit."

Many of Whitney Houston's family members and friends turned to her for money, either by way of working for her, manipulating her, or outright stealing from her, including her father.

Is record producer Clive Davis bisexual?

Yes. In the Whitney Houston movie, it is mentioned that Stanley Tucci's character, record producer Clive Davis, is bisexual. The real Clive Davis came out as bisexual in his 2013 autobiography The Soundtrack of My Life. In his life, Davis had been married twice and divorced twice. He said that he has also had several relationships with men.

Was Whitney Houston in an abusive relationship with Bobby Brown?

Yes. If you're at all familiar with the Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody true story, then you're aware that her tumultuous relationship with husband Bobby Brown is well-documented. In December 2003, she was involved in an argument with Brown during which he threatened to "beat her ass" and then assaulted her. When the police arrived, they noted that she had visible injuries to her face, including a bruise on her left cheek and a cut inside her upper lip. Houston told the officers that Brown struck her with an open right hand. Brown had already left to fly to California and was not at home when the police arrived. She refused to press charges. However, the state of Georgia automatically presses charges when domestic violence is suspected by authorities. -CNN

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown on their wedding day, July 18, 1992.

Did Whitney Houston abuse drugs?

Yes. In researching how accurate is Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, we discovered that she admitted to using drugs for several decades. However, she told Oprah in September 2009 that prior to The Bodyguard (1992) and the birth of her daughter in 1993, her drug use was limited. Whitney said that she used drugs with Bobby Brown during their marriage, telling Oprah that Brown "laced marijuana with rock cocaine." She said that by 1996, "[doing drugs] was an everyday thing ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself." In 1999, Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy Houston, held an intervention, hoping that Whitney would seek drug treatment. She showed up stoned and although she agreed to go to treatment, she phoned her father and he told her she didn't have to go.

In 2002, she joined Diane Sawyer for a primetime interview to promote her then-upcoming album. In addressing the rumors about her drug use and her emaciated appearance on Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary TV special the year prior, Whitney said, "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack." Despite the phrase having first appeared on a 1986 Manhattan mural by Keith Haring, it thereafter became associated with Whitney Houston, further tarnishing her image.

Whitney Houston's drug abuse was evident when she appeared gaunt on Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary TV special in 2001.

Whitney had been to rehab several times over the years but it never stuck. In the Oprah interview, she said that she did attend a 30-day rehab program, but she resumed her drug use after it was over. At the time of the interview in 2009, Whitney stated that she was drug-free. However, she resumed her drug use again at some point prior to her death three years later. In her friend Robyn Crawford's 2019 autobiography, Robyn said that she had resigned from her position as Whitney's executive assistant in May 2000 because Whitney had refused to seek treatment for her drug addiction. Robyn felt that Whitney's husband, Bobby Brown, had been a bad influence on her. Robyn and Bobby didn't get along. She gave Whitney an ultimatum, either leave Bobby or she quits. Whitney replied by telling her that she accepted her resignation.

Whitney Houston (left) publicly admitted to abusing drugs, which eventually led to her death.

How did Whitney Houston die?

On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston was found unconscious and submerged in the bathtub of her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Paramedics arrived and performed CPR but to no avail. An autopsy revealed that Whitney Houston's death was the result of drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use." She had used cocaine shortly before she died and possibly suffered a heart attack while in the bathtub. Other drugs were found in her system, including cannabis, Xanax, Benadryl and Flexeril. Her death was stated to be an accident.

Does Whitney Houston's family approve of the I Wanna Dance with Somebody movie?

Yes, and it is the only Whitney Houston movie that they have given their blessing to.