‘our very own friendship was romantic on all degrees’: Robyn Crawford on the fascination with Whitney Houston | Whitney Houston |


he story told by Robyn Crawford into the pages of A Song available, an account of her decades-long connection with
Whitney Houston
is actually sensitive, transferring and painful to see, the annals of a relationship this is certainly additionally a love story. Much more really, it is the tale of two women that, for any totality of Houston’s life, concealed the intimate beginnings of that commitment, amid intensive and quite often prurient conjecture. At the same time, Crawford was harangued, marginalised, and allegedly threatened with violence by performer’s family. « i discovered comfort inside my silence, » states Crawford, whose decision to publish the ebook was in component a rebuke towards tabloidisation of her pal’s heritage. But it is the silence that lingers. Checking out her book, one gets the chilling feeling not simply of exactly how alien circumstances happened to be from inside the extremely recent past, but of an account which shouldn’t be duplicated in the foreseeable future.

To-break any silence is actually difficult – never mind one enforced over years, within risk of huge commercial damage to a brand as important as Houston’s. Also seven years following performer’s demise, Crawford obviously continues to struggle. Within her manager’s ny workplace, the 55-year-old is actually lightly talked and elegant, picking her words utilizing the proper care of some one still half stuck during the mentality of shielding the woman friend.

Crawford and Houston were teenagers whenever they came across at a community hub in East Orange, nj-new jersey, the singer younger by three-years. « there clearly was an immediate link, » Crawford claims. She was a basketball celebrity, residence from university; Houston had been in senior high school. « therefore clicked, » she says. « She said she was actually a musician hence she visited Mount St Dominic Academy, and that I told her I became playing baseball and also in university. We were two buddies – it wasn’t like we met at a club. It actually was something that occurred in the stream of a friendship. »

By « something that happened », Crawford is actually referring to the years immediately after meeting if the two women had been sexually involved. If she is coy about it, it is with good reason. The warping effectation of denial isn’t conveniently shrugged off as there are an overwhelming feeling, both in the book along with person, of someone working a gamut of interior barriers. Both Houston and Crawford have been brought up in God-fearing households, at one time when, she says, « you were often this, or perhaps you happened to be that ». Formally, these people were merely buddies, but actually in private they resisted acknowledging that was really happening. « We never chatted brands, like lesbian and gay, » Crawford produces. « We just lived our life, and that I hoped it could embark on in that way for ever. »

The friendship would, actually, finally two decades, but the sexual relationship was temporary. In 1980, when they found, it had been currently obvious Houston had been at risk of popularity: the woman cousin,
Dionne Warwick
, was a veteran star; the woman mummy,
, a successful support vocalist; and Whitney had caught the eye of record executives in ny. It was additionally clear that her union with Crawford would definitely end up being problematic. Within ages of 19, Houston signed her very first agreement with Arista reports president Clive Davis. In an extraordinary world into the book, she next decided to go to Crawford’s home, handed her a Bible and told her that they had to quit making love, « because it might generate the journey even more complicated ». She additionally told Crawford that, « if they realized – because the woman career ended up being removing – they’d make use of it against united states ».

‘We had been young, and fearless, and free.’ picture: courtesy of Robyn Crawford

This is certainly all said in a tone of peaceful expression, however in the book the pain is actually severe. Crawford moved with Houston’s desires, and carried on to inside many years that then followed. Once Houston could be able to, she hired Crawford as her associate additionally the ladies moved into a condo with each other in Woodbridge, nj-new jersey. The singer’s administration group was small then though – even in the mid-1980s, whenever Houston’s first two albums turned into a couple of biggest-selling debuts ever, with many 40m copies offered globally (the eponymous
Whitney Houston
, with its big hits exactly how am i going to understand and Protecting All our fascination with You; and its particular follow-up, Whitney, featuring we Wanna Dance With Somebody, Thus Emotional and failed to We Almost own it All). During those times, Houston had just one supervisor, Crawford recalls, « and then he cannot get her clothing aside, get it pushed, wake up very early and deliver it downstairs like I could. I did so those things. »

She was happy to do all of them, she says. Care-taking emerged naturally; she’d adult in a family in which her parent had violently mistreated her mother and in which, from an early age, Crawford had used about role of guard. And she appreciated Houston, to who she still pertains by her nickname, Nippy. « It actually was about getting lovers on a journey that she realized she was actually happening, » she claims. « This wasn’t a person who had been pressed into tv show company. Nippy was someone that actually decided it. She had been extremely clear-headed about it, and I also was actually really good. I happened to be created for that part. »

Consistently, Houston and Crawford properly functioned as a couple of, living together, sometimes (and chastely) sharing a bed, and staying emotionally close. « you’d kitties! » We state: if that’s not a lesbian couple, I’m not sure what is. Crawford smiles and claims that, « living with each other was actually like [living with] some other roommate ». They’d stay up later writing on music and hatching plans. But once Houston began matchmaking Jermaine Jackson during the mid-1980s, next
Eddie Murphy
, and hip-hop star
Bobby Brown
, who she partnered, Crawford admits it actually was enormously hard. « The real part of all of our relationship ended up being not any longer, nevertheless closeness… our very own friendship ended up being personal on all levels, that’s exactly how strong it actually was, and that I wanted the lady to give me a call and say, ‘Guess exactly what, this will be occurring [with Jermaine].’ And she was not doing that, hence injured above all else. It failed to feel she was cheating on me – it felt more like she was actually making me around. » Whenever quick relationship with Jackson ended, Crawford was actually here.

This would be the routine of the lives with each other for the following 10 years: Crawford as the individual whom Houston would turn since demands of reputation intensified. « I need some body that i am aware loves myself for my situation, » Houston as soon as mentioned of Crawford so when the celebrity’s star increased, Crawford became one of many few individuals she could trust. It’s a strength of the woman guide it evokes with such understanding a separate era of stardom – one in which singers like Houston, Michael Jackson and Madonna reigned over a lot fewer mass media shops, at an increased current, than stars in the present atomised media. It was additionally a period when main-stream movie stars must be further unimpeachably heterosexual, and Crawford’s visibility – she was usually by Houston’s side – turned into the main topic of more and more frantic speculation. Every time Houston did a job interview, she was actually asked just who she ended up being online dating; as well as in 1987, a serious profile eventually mag made reference to the rumours, a lot to Houston’s horror. The artist’s attorney also rang Crawford, when, to ask, « Did you two ever have sexual relations? » (She responded, « Look, I don’t have to tell you everything, » a reply that infuriated Houston when she found out. « Anything You must perform was actually state no! » she yelled, and hung up on Crawford.)

‘If the woman record organization revealed, she said, they would put it to use against us.’ Photograph: due to Robyn Crawford

It is a stretching to recast the silence attributable to homophobic bullying as good, but there’s something very going concerning method Crawford concerned respect the woman secret background with Houston: because their sole private space in an existence ruled by public interest. « It actually was a tale that has been

my own

, » she states. « She realized I’d it, she understood we held it, she knew i might eliminate it. And so I failed to feel an urgency to just talk. And trust in me, people knocked throughout the home. »


People within Houston’s internal group, meanwhile, turned into progressively aggressive. When Houston’s mummy, Cissy, also known as their unique friendship unnatural and « insisted that we not any longer walk close to Whitney in public », Houston moved alongside it, while advising Crawford in exclusive, « Robyn, you are aware I favor you tremendously. » When Houston partnered Bobby Brown, he would occasionally yell at Crawford, and Houston would straight back him right up. In 1988, whenever Crawford proposed to Cissy that the singer required assistance on her drug dependency, she was presented with brief shrift. Houston’s daddy blocked Crawford from conferences and, in 1997, after several years of traveling with Houston, Crawford ended up being shut out of a 10-date Pacific Rim tour.

At some point she give up, 2 decades after she and Houston 1st met. By the point on the vocalist’s death in 2012, Crawford ended up being living in rural nj-new jersey with her partner, Lisa, as well as 2 kiddies, along withn’t spoken to Houston in several many years. « But I happened to be usually here on her behalf, » she says. « we held feeling she was going to arrive, and I also told Lisa, ‘whenever Whitney involves our very own door, that door needs to open.' »


t is actually a distorting effect of fame that slight symptoms can assume a much bigger importance than they are entitled to. Had Houston not experienced the spotlight, her teenage romance with Crawford could possibly have fizzled down anyway, making them able to keep on easily as buddies. Rather, their own connection became the elephant in place. In stark mass media terms, really the only reason any of that is an account – the reason we’re here now – is simply because two females slept collectively plus one became popular. Yet, as Crawford highlights, the feelings were real. « That fuel we had, that genuine really love, folks could feel it, nonetheless don’t know very well what it was. »

Crawford today: ‘We never talked labels, like lesbian and homosexual. We simply lived our everyday life.’

Photograph: Caroll Taveras/The Guardian

After Houston’s passing, Crawford discovered herself questioning whether she should at long last talk aside. « that has been initially my personal silence ended up being shaken. » Houston had been found face down for the bathtub in a hotel room in Beverly Hills. The coroner ruled the woman death becoming accidental drowning, induced in part by cocaine and cardiovascular disease. « we felt like i ought to do something, but i did not know what that has been, » Crawford states. « however the fury was indeed there. » By 2012, she had effortlessly shifted, going back to her baseball sources being an individual instructor. « Whitney’s world », as she sets it, cannot being more away, as well as after the artist’s passing, Crawford believed the number one strategy would be to lie reasonable. « but Krissie happened. »

36 months after Houston’s death, her just daughter,
Bobbi Kristina
, died from a variety of drowning and medication intoxication from the chronilogical age of 22; before she passed away, she spent several months in a coma. « that is while I actually tuned into Whitney, » Crawford says. « The tone of everything ended up being negative – you can feel it. I did not have Whitney Houston on my resumé but working, occasionally, individuals would state, ‘You always make use of Whitney, just how was


?’ enjoy it was bull crap.

That have to’ve been anything

. » She appears pained. « and therefore wasn’t it. I believed compelled to stand right up when this occurs, not just to raise her heritage, but to honour all of our friendship, because friends are not something that you should only toss out. You will be happy to express you really have a buddy, and something you’ve got using your life. We tell my personal young ones constantly [when they overuse the word friend]: which is an associate, that is a fair-weather pal right there. »

Viewed through the outside, the confusing thing about this all is that, for most of the time, the relationship were starkly unequal. Houston maybe loyal: when, in early times of their own friendship, Crawford was utilized at a car car dealership and mayn’t offer just one car, Houston fell in and purchased one from her, without really as taking it for a test-drive. Houston opened the world for Crawford, revealing the lady to any or all the style, vacation and interest that sort of popularity can provide. Nevertheless the singer could also be capricious and spiteful. When, while Crawford had been on trip with Houston in London, she proceeded a date with one of her performers. Whenever Houston revealed they’d kissed, she slapped Crawford during the face.

Crawford (second from correct) with Houston, Michael Jackson and a friend. Picture: INFphoto.com

« She performed later on tell me that she had been feeling susceptible, » she says. « She most likely was actually feeling defeated. In my opinion she slapped my personal face because she felt that I got done something, and she wanted me to understand that I would earned that punch. But she provided me with a hug right after. Because she enjoyed me personally. »

Without doubt it was because she was jealous? « i might say Whitney ended up being possessive. The envy I’ve experienced had been volatile – what my mother familiar with my father, and to be honest, the way in which we noticed Bobby address Whitney – that is envy. Hers ended up being possessiveness:

you’re mine

. »

Crawford’s recognition of Houston’s rotten behavior can from time to time be infuriating. For decades, Houston was definitely homophobic, openly comparing homosexuality to bestiality, then in private blasting Crawford for maybe not denying the rumours regarding their relationship strenuously adequate – behaviour Crawford disliked, but moved along with. After Crawford quit her work with Houston, she ended up being supplied a lucrative marketing job at Arista Records, before the provide had been quickly and inexplicably taken. Several months later on, Crawford ran into LA Reid, the after that mind of Arista, whom told her it absolutely was Houston who had nixed work, because « she was not at ease with me bringing you in ». It checks out as a tremendous betrayal, even more therefore because, into the publication, Crawford recounts how during the time she defended Houston’s behavior to the woman spouse. « She’s maybe not inside her right head, » she informed Lisa. « This is the folks around her. »

In 1995, in a much more jaw-dropping event, Crawford discovered of a story working inside National Enquirer whereby it actually was alleged that Houston’s dad had employed a thug to « break the woman [Crawford’s] kneecaps ». Houston ended up being operating high on present honor wins, such as three Grammys, eight United states Music Awards and 11 Billboard Awards, along with her song,
I Will Constantly Love You
, the title track from Bodyguard, investing 14 days at no. 1. Instead thinking about her own situation, Crawford’s first idea on reading regarding the Enquirer tale was actually for Houston. « these weren’t thinking about exactly how that was making Whitney feel, » she states. « They weren’t respecting her. It wasn’t like she informed them to get do just about anything in my experience. » It really is an exceptional reaction to an alleged danger of physical violence: that no one ended up being planning on Houston.

Houston together mommy, Cissy, in 1989. Photograph: Getty Photos

Wasn’t here an electric instability into the relationship, I ask. Crawford looks puzzled.

« precisely what do you suggest, precisely? »

I am talking about that, for many that Whitney needed you, was not everything on her terms? « We worked hand and hand. I happened to be indeed there, We knew what my personal character had been. We went through the woman modelling years together. I got a driving licence, she didn’t, so I’d drive this lady. I found myself seeing the woman increase. Precisely what she had said she would perform, I could view it happening. When you’re inquiring myself, right from the start had been here an imbalance, we usually had balance. We worked really collectively. Then again the greater individuals came into it, therefore the bigger she got – you are aware, she’s perhaps not black adequate, they may be always collectively, what’s going on indeed there, she is perhaps not internet dating anybody – all that got larger and bigger, and she increased. It was usually indeed there. We’re able ton’t break free it. »

She includes, « If Whitney partnered to you, she don’t just be sure to analysis task, she worked with you as somebody. All things considered, it actually was tragic. Although distinction with me is actually: I said thank you so much. And I think’s just what others should say, also. »

Because of the others, she doesn’t only mean the legions of enthusiasts; she implies those that profited right from Houston – the business acquaintances and levels of family members just who, Crawford contends from inside the guide, bled the artist therefore dry that she had no choice but to keep happening tour, even as her drug abuse kept her physically prone. Cocaine have been part of the two women’s physical lives as young adults, until Crawford’s mother had learned and yelled at the woman to give up. It took Crawford a while, but she performed. At the time, Houston had vowed to quit, also. With terrible poignancy, Houston once shared with her: « Cocaine can’t get in which we are heading. »

There clearly was absolutely nothing Crawford could perform but plead along with her to prevent and report this lady medication use to the woman mother. « I am able to stop, but she are unable to, » she thought to Cissy, who so far as she understands did absolutely nothing. Crawford was similarly helpless when it concerned Houston’s interactions. After Jermaine Jackson, Houston ended up being largely unmarried until she partnered Bobby Brown, although popular men typically requested the lady . Robert de Niro bothered the girl for a time and she decrease for Eddie Murphy, whom messed her about as well as on her wedding day labeled as to say, « never wed Bobby, he’s no-good. » This turned into real. In Crawford’s account, Houston came back from the woman honeymoon with a three-inch mark down one side of her face – the result, Houston shared with her, of a glass tossed during a fight. Per several witnesses, Brown allegedly always been aggressive towards Houston and her medicine utilize expidited. The happy couple divorced in 2007.

« A lot of the physical items that Bobby did was while I wasn’t there, » Crawford says.  » you never realized as he would misbehave. He’d trash the woman road and I did not appreciate him for this. » For quite some time, she couldn’t understand why Houston was thus openly forgiving towards Brown. « But now I do, » she claims. It actually was a survival procedure. « Because nowadays, she knew exactly how he could behave. Anytime he is call at the open generating a scene, you wish to defuse it. And she didn’t like to embarrass men and women. »

With Bobby Brown as well as their daughter Bobbi Kristina in 1994. Photo: Getty Graphics

It really is advising that most touching section of Crawford’s story has nothing to do with Houston; alternatively, oahu is the trajectory of the woman commitment with Lisa, the woman wife, an editor whoever peaceful, healthier demeanour tosses into description the sheer disorder of the world Crawford was making. Their particular relationship took off just as Crawford had been leaving Houston’s orbit, and Lisa shared with her she needed seriously to get support. « She inspired us to choose treatment, » she states and laughs. « â€˜Either check-out therapy, or this ain’t happening’ – that is what she mentioned. Plus it was obvious I needed to greatly help me. »

Long after both happened to be hitched and had youngsters, but Crawford was still in danger of being sucked back. Men and women would just be sure to keep in touch with the woman about Houston, or she would study something in a magazine and instantly, « I would personally maintain that area of looking out for her and attempting to find it all out. Lisa could see myself move involved with it. She would state, ‘You need certainly to target you.’ She’d remind me that there Im, heading back in. » Crawford would not participate in Nick Broomfield’s 2017 documentary about Houston, Whitney:
May I Be Myself
, and states she’sn’t observed it.

The one thing she ponders today with regret is a cell phone information Houston left shortly before the woman demise, that Crawford inadvertently deleted after a few seconds, before she had an opportunity to hear it {play|per