If you’ve read Cissy Houston’s book, then you had some sense that Whitney was failed by her family in some significant ways – from her mother’s harshness to her father managing and then ultimately suing her for millions of dollars.
What is made clear by the documentary is that Whitney was often a reluctant superstar, who may have done better for herself had she accepted what seems to be her bisexuality and the one person who appears to have truly loved her the most completely – Crawford.
Instead a toxic combination of the demands of fame, her family abandoning their own aspirations to “support” her career, her insecurities and the difficulties of being a Black woman in a tough business along with a tenacious drug addiction precipitated her tragic downfall.
In combination, the docs provide a cautionary tale of the music business and its particular racial and sexual politics (for much of Whitney’s career, and even in both documentaries, whites profit off her talent, while Whitney was struggling financially) the challenges of any drug addict but especially when the addict is a celebrity and can afford both drugs and the enablers to provide them.
Unfortunately, as Is the case with many Black artists, Black people do not tell their story and therefore, nuances are lost. While McDonald captures the times that made Whitney a superstar and touches on the racial politics, he doesn’t explore how specifically being a Black woman raised in the church may have impacted her and her relationships.
Whitney on Oprah in 1999: