See “Whitney Houston’s Life in Pictures” photo gallery below.
The darndest thing about true icons is that they don’t try to garner such title and praise. They simply exist and excel within their own paradigm. Perhaps, it’s that level of ease and comfort in their innate abilities that makes their journeys, spirits and talents endear them to countless of loyalists. Whitney Houston’s musical ascension was seemingly effortless and earned her a rightful place among legendary soul mavens. Undoubtedly, her global reverence was a testament to her vocal prowess, yet it was her vigor that captivated the hearts of those who were blessed enough to know, love or work with her before her untimely home going this past February.
“Nippy was one moment in time and a gift from God,” says Pat Houston, her manager, confidante and sister-in-law. “Yes, there was turbulence in her life, but through her music she had a [positive] impact on people lives.” At last, the pop diva’s devotees can experience her timeless beauty and energy documented in the lush page-turner Whitney: Tribute to An Icon (Atria Books, $39.99). A vivid storyboard collection of 130 portraits that spans three decades, Whitney immortalizes the larger-than-life chanteuse’s life and career through the lens of its curator, renowned photographer Randee St. Nicholas and 22 photographers that donated images.
“We want people to fall in love with her for the first time all over again,” says St. Nicholas who directed Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” video. “It was such a huge undertaking so it was important to get it right. I wanted to make sure I captured her essence not just through my eyes but others who had the chance to work with her. At one point I was looking over thousands of pictures and kept wondering if I’d chosen the right ones and I swear I heard Whitney say, ‘Randee chill out! It’s fine.’ That’s when I knew it was ready.”
Blackamericaweb.com caught up with Houston and St. Nicholas who shared some of their intimate moments and thoughts about their soulful sister-friend.
The angelic songbird sitting pretty in Atlanta, Ga 2010
“She knew when to be serious and when to have fun,” says Pat. “She was an icon not because she was a superstar, but because of who she was as a person.”
“Whitney wasn’t one to sit still because she was so spirited–always dancing and singing–you couldn’t hold the girl down,” says St. Nicholas. “It was a cold and rainy January in Atlanta. We rented a house in a beautiful part of the city to shoot publicity photographs for the “Nothing But Love Tour.” I wanted to photograph Whitney through atmospheric layers of glass with water drops. When Whitney came out dressed all in white her beauty was magic.”
Whitney perfects her pout in Atlanta, Ga 2010
“Nippy [believed] that someone was always going to be more beautiful or more outgoing so you had to be satisfied with what God gave you,” says Pat. “She was absolutely stunning but she never flaunted it. She was just satisfied being in her own shoes.” “Her skin was just gorgeous,” says St. Nicholas. “I remember [the late] Kevyn Aucoin saying her skin is flawless before doing her makeup for the ‘I Will Always Love You’ video. Her beauty radiated from the inside out. When Whitney sat down in-front of the mirror the introspective-Whitney appeared. She became a girl lost in thought. It was difficult to choose just one from this set up because there were so many expressive moments.”
The pop diva suits up looking boot-iful in Atlanta, Ga 2010
“When it came to styling for shoots and videos she put her trust in her team,” says Pat. “When it came to her wardrobe Whitney didn’t like following trends. Her favorite outfit was a white crisp shirt, jeans and some boots. We called ourselves twins because if I went shopping for some boots, I better come back with a pair for her or she was taking mine and she often did. I stopped getting mad about it and looked at it as her way of always being close to me.”
“This photograph was taken near the end of our photo shoot. Confident, sexy and feeling great about herself Whitney looked me right in the eyes and said ‘Don’t you love these boots Randee? Even the soles sparkle!'” says St. Nicholas.
Nippy gets ready to cruise in New York City, 1990
“It’s so amazing to see how she started out as a young girl in this industry and then how she truly blossomed,” says Pat. “She became a grown woman and a mother. which she loved being to Bobbi Kristina.” “I always called Whitney a woman-child because she was playful,” says St. Nicholas. “When she smiled the room was elevated. It just hydroplaned.”
The choir backs up Whitney during the “All the Man I Need” video shoot in New Jersey 1989
“Whitney always played gospel before her photo shoots,” says Pat. “She was very quiet prior to going in front of the camera, meditating. I believe that’s why photographers always got so many great images of her because she had that peace within her.” “I am always looking for the good in everyone and when you get someone like Whitney who has a good spirit, integrity, talent, beauty and generosity you want to capture it all,” says St. Nicholas
The songstress relaxes, relates, releases on the video set of “Waiting to Exhale” in New York 1995
“No matter what was going on with her life, she never let go of her quest for God,” says Pat. “She had one foot in the world but she was a truth seeker. She never stopped believing in God to get her through.”
“Whitney was bigger than life but then there was that intimacy she shared,” says St. Nicholas. “She was just Whitney–doing her best and giving her all.”