There are some who will probably always remember where they were when they heard that Whitney Houston passed away at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012, at 48 years old. About one month after the tragedy, CNN reported that the cause of death was accidental drowning with “atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use,” also playing a role. There was also a lot of talk about Houston’s career accomplishments after her passing since she scored a slew of hits, which started with her debut album in 1985. She practically made a home for herself on the Billboard charts as well, being that her 1992 remake of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” spent an impressive 29 weeks on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart. Then there was that voice that many still call the best of its era.
Plus, there was a lot said about the last few days of Houston’s life after her death. A 2012 People report, for example, said that she was acting erratically. Of course, it’ll never be exactly known how Houston felt at that time since she didn’t speak about her emotional state in those last days. But what did her life look like in the months leading up to her death? We’ve taken a look to see just where Houston was with her career as well as her personal life, and from the looks of it, she was trying to start new in both areas.
Whitney Houston was excited about returning to film
There haven’t been a lot of famous singers who’ve made the successful leap from music to film, but Whitney Houston pulled it off, and she did it with her first three movies, The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife. All three films were huge box office draws, and they made it clear that Houston could fill theater seats just as well as she could concert halls. But The Preacher’s Wife would be the singer’s last film until 2012’s Sparkle, where she played the role of Emma Anderson. Houston talked about how thrilled she was to be in the film during an interview with BlackFilm.com.
“I don’t think of it as a comeback. I don’t think of it as a pressure,” she said in 2012. “I think of it as a gift God gave me to contribute to a cast of people who are working as hard, if not harder, than I… I have three jobs; I am an executive producer, soundtrack and actress. It’s in my family, bloodline … It’s in me… It’s not a comeback. It’s innate. It’s natural.”
Houston also spoke about her acting career a few months earlier and said she’d be willing to reprise one of her biggest roles. “You know what, that Terry McMillan, she keeps calling me about that Waiting to Exhale 2,” the singer told Access Hollywood in November of 2011. “I guess it’s inevitable … I’m not going to say no.”
She shared the stage with Prince
Getting to see one music icon in concert is eventful enough, but when another hops on stage with him, it probably created a memory for the audience that they’ll never forget. The night was May 5th, 2011, and Whitney Houston jumped on stage with Prince at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. while he played his song “Musicology.” She was in the front row at the time watching the show, and the Purple One pulled her onstage. In a fitted black sequined dress, Houston danced freely like she was at a basement house party, then she and Prince broke out into an impromptu dance routine. The Sign o’ the Times singer gave her the microphone after that, and Houston proceeded to belt out some notes while hyping up the crowd. “Say yeah!” she sang.
Prince hugged the pop star when she was finished and escorted her off stage. A few days after that show, TMZ reported that he banned her from all of his concerts because she was acting strangely while in the audience, something that he later denied. “She’s always welcome for all of eternity,” Prince clarified in a statement. Of course, little did the Forum audience know that the world would lose two music legends in the next handful of years since Prince passed away from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016.
Whitney Houston recorded new music
Whitney Houston’s final studio album was 2009’s I Look to You, so by the time 2011 rolled around, her fans were probably starving for new music. Eventually, their bellies would be filled with a new song called “Celebrate” that features Houston and American Idol alum Jordin Sparks. The up-tempo tune, released in June of 2012, is the final cut on the Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and the last song that Houston recorded before her death. “There is oh so many of us that underestimate the power of love/So much hate going ’round and I’ve had enough/I’ve invited you for the love,” sing Houston and Sparks.
But some might say that a dark cloud hovers over the catchy baseline since the song was written and produced by R. Kelly, who’s been behind bars since 2019 on sex crime charges, including human trafficking and kidnapping. Besides the “Celebrate” single, Houston was about to work on her eighth studio album in June of 2011, according to The Grape Juice. But sadly, that album never arrived, however, one could argue that Houston has delivered enough quality music in her career to last any listener a lifetime.
She was being proactive in her battle with drugs
Whitney Houston’s struggle with drugs has been well-documented throughout parts of her career. She also admitted to using drugs in a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer and again in 2009 with Oprah Winfrey. Then in May of 2011, Houston’s spokeswoman Kristen Foster said that she checked herself into an outpatient rehab facility for drugs and alcohol, which wasn’t the first time she sought help (via ABC News). The “How Will I Know” singer first went to rehab in 2004, then again in 2005, according to People. Over the years, many have blamed her drug use on Bobby Brown — the ’80s R&B star that she married in 1992.
The long-running rumor was that Brown introduced Houston to drugs, which he denied in 2016 during a conversation with Robin Roberts for ABC News. “It wasn’t me that started her,” he claimed. “I take my part, and I take it hard for me even being a part of it, but we all have our own minds.” And one could say that Houston used that mind to make the smart move of checking herself into rehab. But unfortunately, she would use again, based on the cocaine found in her system after toxicology tests and an autopsy were conducted.
Whitney Houston was looking for love
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown divorced in 2007, and based on what her manager and sister-in-law Patricia Houston told Oprah Winfrey in 2012, she still wanted to be in a committed relationship. For some time, rumors were swirling that Houston was dating reality star and singer Ray J when she was 48 and he 31. “I saw her chasing a dream, looking for love in all the wrong places. As 92 Q Jams notes, while Patricia did say “the dream [Whitney] was chasing was younger,” she never mentioned Ray J.
On top of that, Patricia said that Whitney was just looking for “love and comfort,” and the last thing she needed was a “thriving” younger man who “Loved to be out and about.” Ray J never admitted to dating Whitney, although he held a press conference in 2012 and said he missed her and was really “emotional.” He also blamed himself for her death in a 2017 episode of Celebrity Big Brother. Before being married to Brown, Whitney was linked to celebs like Eddie Murphy and Jermaine Jackson.
She was trying to repair her singing voice
Unfortunately for Whitney Houston, she began getting negative reviews about her singing voice in the last few years of her career, like during her 2010 Nothing but Love World Tour. Some critics also gave her tepid reviews after a 2011 pre-Grammy party, where she sang in a tribute performance for Dionne Warwick, her cousin. One of the so-so reviews came from Entertainment Weekly, who said that Houston’s voice sounded “Throaty and measured” and “underwhelming” at the pre-Grammy event. But it appeared that she was doing something about her voice by going to Beverly Hills ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Shawn Nasseri four days before her death, as CNN reports. Nasseri treated Houston’s voice for many years before that visit, as well as other famous singers. In fact, Houston was trying to repair her voice as early as 2005 and began having sessions with her vocal coach Gary Catona.
“I know I’ve done things that have hurt me … and I have to change it,” Catona said Houston told him while speaking to ABC News in 2012 … “She had virtually had maybe one or two tones in her lower register, that was it … She used to say to me, ‘People have standards that they expect you to live up to. I mean, I can’t. … I have a problem with that, myself, trying to live up to what I once was.'”
She spoke with family members on the day of her death
Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, spoke with Whitney over the phone just hours before she passed away, and they said there were no obvious signs of trouble. Reportedly, Warwick talked to Houston about their seating arrangements for Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party, which was scheduled for that night. Whitney then spoke with her mother at about 3:15 p.m., according to ABC News, almost 30 minutes before the pop star was found unconscious in her hotel bathtub. In 2013 Cissy spoke with Oprah Winfrey about that call, saying, “She told me that she loved me … She said, ‘I’m coming to see you’ … I had no idea [it would be the last time that I would speak to her].”
Cissy also told Winfrey that one of her sons called screaming and told her about Houston passing away. “I said, ‘Is she dead?’ He said, ‘Yeah, mommy, she’s dead.'” Cissy said that she couldn’t remember much after hearing those tragic words. Warwick also talked about the last conversation she had with Whitney during a 2012 interview with Good Morning America. “She said … ‘You’re coming to the party, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be there.’ She says, ‘Thank you, I want you to be here. You’ve got to be here for me,'” Warwick recalled. “She had everything in the world to live for.”
Whitney Houston received a lot of praise days before she died
Whitney Houston attended an event called Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For the Love of R&B on Feb. 9, 2012, two days before her passing. Price praised Houston during the event, and they took the stage together, which would end up being Houston’s final performance. “She pushed me to sing to my limit … You are a class act, you are an icon,” Price told Houston that night, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Singers Brandy and Monica also had kind words to say about Houston days before her death since she was at the rehearsal for Clive Davis’ 2012 pre-Grammy event and gave them performance advice. “She is definitely the greatest teacher, the greatest voice of all time, and just to have her support, just here today is amazing,” said Brandy about Houston in a clip posted by Hip Hollywood. “So many don’t know how loving she really is,” Monica followed. “When so many things were happening in my life that weren’t in favor of me reaching my full potential, she was always there pushing me.” It’s safe to assume that both Monica and Brandy told Houston those things in person.
She was happy in the days leading up to her death
Kelly Price spoke a lot about Whitney Houston’s last few hours after her death since she spent a lot of time with the iconic singer at her Kelly Price & Friends event. Shortly after Houston’s death, some outlets reported that she got into an argument with X Factor‘s Stacy Francis and was pretty angry. But Price said that wasn’t the case, and Houston was in wonderful spirits for the entire night. “Thursday was the Whitney that I knew,” said Price in a 2012 Grammy video that showed preparation for her event. “She was celebrating, she was joyful … We had a good time.” Price also said that Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown was with her at the event, and they partied it up. Sadly, Brown died in 2015 from being immersed in a water-filled bathtub, similar to her mother. There were also drugs found in her system.
Price also talked about Houston being at her event on the Grammy red carpet in 2012. “What you saw on stage was what that night was about,” she explained. “When she left the club, she left tired and drained because we had all danced ourselves into an absolute frenzy, and it’s hard for me to hear anything other than that because she stood no more than three feet away from me the entire time, and we had a ball that night.”
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