Whitney Houston was one of the greatest and most successful female recording artists of all time. She was a world renown vocalist whose charm, wit and even some of her scandals kept us entertained for years.
Though it’s unconfirmed, it has been rumored she had a physical relationship with her close personal friend Robyn Crawford. In a new documentary about her life titled Whitney, family members and friends describe her sexuality as “fluid,” and the film’s director, Kevin MacDonald, spoke about her sexuality in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, saying: “I think it’s fairly obvious when you talk to the family and friends, nobody is denying that Whitney and Robyn had a physical relationship — a sexual relationship,” Macdonald says “They were partners for a number of years. My understanding is that relationship was over in a romantic sense by the mid-’80s when Whitney became a big star.”
We may never have a straightforward answer on whether Whitney was queer, but that doesn’t change her status as an inspiration and icon to many in the LGBTQ community. Her music and pop cultural presence make her a gay icon, and here are a few reasons why:
She has a doctorate in shade and reading.
Whitney has never been at a loss for words, and she wasn’t afraid to use them. In 1990, at the peak of cultural diva rivalries, she was asked, “What do you think about Mariah Carey?” and she replied, “I don’t think of her” — a response by itself that is a masterclass in shade. If you looked up “shade” in a gay dictionary, this moment would be the example they use under the definition.
She wasn’t afraid to read anyone who came for her. In a heated exchange with radio host Wendy Williams, Whitney laid into Williams for always talking about her. After Williams said the hitmaker’s Diane Sawyer interview didn’t show her in the best light, Houston retorted, “You never show yourself in the best light yet people still listen to you…They don’t even get to see your face, but they should know what you look like.” A stone-cold reading that shows a level of talent that Hollywood only dreams of.
Gowns. Beautiful gowns.
Whitney Houston was an enormous talent, and her beauty was such a lovely bonus. Before she began her career in music, Whitney Houston had a career as a model. She signed with Wilhelmina Models at age 16 and appeared in Seventeen, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. With cheekbones higher than Oprah’s credit limit and a smile that could light up the darkest of rooms, Whitney was stunning. She had a lovely sense of style and a truly iconic presence in front of the camera. The gowns were always gorgeous and that face was always beat like the confederacy. A true queen.
Being Bobby Brown
Buried deep in the Bravo archives, the 2005 show followed the couple for a few months and gave us some hilarious insight into their lives. From Bobby buying Preparation H as under-eye cream to Whitney singing the Black Eyed Peas’ “Shut Up” as Bobby danced in front of the car, the couple seemed so comfortable in front of a camera crew documenting their entire life. Being Bobby Brown walked so Keeping Up With The Kardashians could run. We stan.
Her non-gender-specific hits
In a world of Hayley Kiyokos and Troye Sivans, it’s becoming easier to find relatable songs that explore queer experiences, but it wasn’t always so simple. In the past, non-gender-specific anthems were the best bet, and Whitney has had several, including, but not limited to: “Saving All My Love for You,” “My Love Is Your Love,” “I Have Nothing,” “Run to You,” “So Emotional” and the ever-iconic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” just to name a few. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is a queer anthem that has spanned decades. Pose on FX uses the song at the end of the pilot episode when one of the characters, Damon, auditions for the New School Dance program. It’s a scene of pure gay joy that really encapsulates the feeling that song brings us. These non-gender-specific bops give us more than we deserve.
“It’s Not Right But It’s Okay (Thunderpuss Remix)”
The remix to already-hit song “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” was featured on her greatest-hits album and, honestly, it is some of most pure LGBTQ allyship. It harkens to the now GIF’d words of Erika Jayne: “I’m gonna give the gays everything they want.” If only someone could bottle the joy that occurs in a room full of gays when this song comes on. It’s palpable and may be the cure for many other ills. There should be nothing but respect for the gay national anthem. For those who haven’t ever heard it, get on it.
Whitney Houston is remembered as one of the greatest voices of all time. Her music is timeless and will forever brings us joy. However, she had her demons. Whitney struggled with a drug addiction problem and faced it and criticism for it very publicly. Her weight, her finances, her tumultuous marriage and rumored queerness were all media fodder for decades as she tried to keep her life together.
Gay icons are so often women who have struggled and experienced mistreatment in a society dominated by men. Their strength is an inspiration and pushes us forward in the face of adversity. They resonate with us because we recognize that pain. We are drawn to stories of those who face immense scrutiny and oppression and still manage to keep their head held high. They give us hope and remind us of our humanity.