Pat Houston was looking through an archive of memorabilia left behind by her sister-in-law, Whitney Houston, in her home office in Georgia in the spring of 2019. There were pictures—about 25,000 of them—of both personal and professional occasions, including family vacations, Whitney in the hospital in 1993 following the birth of her daughter Bobbi Kristina, and a performance in 1996 at the daughter of the Sultan of Brunei’s wedding. She had a plethora of trophies and plaques, including a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction statue, Grammys, American Music Awards (AMAs), and a framed certificate commemorating the sale of 200 million albums worldwide. Additionally, there were smaller, more sentimental items like a gold-plated Social Security card, a priceless book on Audrey Hepburn (Whitney adored classic movies), and a Bible that Pat discovered on a shelf in her own home. The Bible was a gift from Whitney’s mother, Cissy.
You remember when you reflect, you get what I mean? It’s also bittersweet. In that office in late September, Pat explains, “There have been happy times and sad ones at the same time. Even just having those items, which to most people wouldn’t mean much, meant a lot to me because I know how significant they were to her. Finding tiny tidbits like that when searching through archives makes her spirit come to mind.
Few performers had as much of an immediate and long-lasting impression as Whitney Houston did when she debuted with her 1985 self-titled first album. She became the only singer in history to have her first seven singles hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to her voice, which was unmatched in her time or probably in anybody else’s. (In the end, she achieved 11 career No. 1s.) She received several awards as a singer-actress, including six Grammys, two Emmys, four No. 1 albums, and 22 AMAs, to mention a few. She agreed to a $100 million contract in 2001, which at the time was the largest record deal ever, to remain with her longtime company Arista Records. The key switch and runs in “I Will Always Love You” and the jaw-dropping “Star-Spangled Banner” from the 1991 Super Bowl are still associated with her name. Her success across a variety of platforms served as a model for success in general for the generation of aspiring celebrities that followed her, wanting to harness that enthusiasm and achieve superstardom on their own.