Gone Too Soon: Whitney Houston
I originally planned to do this post about how the reaction over the first pictures of Blue Ivy Carter, newborn daughter of Pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles and Hip-Hop king Sean "Jay-Z" Carter, was a reminder of how "regular folk" can't help but to worship celebrities in a celebrity obsessed media culture. Then, just last night, music icon Whitney Houston unexpectedly died while attending celebratory festivities for tonight's Grammy Awards. I can't help to think of how ironic it is that Friday night, Twitter was ablaze with jubilation about the beginning of a life, finally seeing Blue, debates about which parent she resembled more, and fantasies about the charmed life that she's destined to live. Only one day later, we were mourning the death of the woman that many considered to possess the best voice in modern times.
It's no secret that Houston had her demons, but I hope that negativity bias that we're used to when it comes to embattled stars is set aside so she will be remembered for creating music that was and still is the backdrop to many of our most precious life events. If you've ever listened to a couple serenade each other with a rendition of "I Believe in You and Me", lip sung into a hair brush to "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", or put "I Will Always Love You" on repeat as tears stream down your face, you know the power that Houston's voice has to make memories that much more memorable. I remember buying the soundtrack to The Bodyguard as a 10-year-old after being mesmerized by hearing "I Will Always Love You" on the radio. That album was one of the first that I bought once I started earning an allowance.
I guess we must analyze celebrities so much because they are reflections of us. They are our dreams and fears in physical, breathing form. When they triumph or fail, they do so exponentially. Celebrity, like anonymity, is a proverbial double edged sword. Not many people have access to the prime platforms that celebrities have access to. Not many people have the pressure that they have to endure. Some are crushed under the weight of sequins encrusted façades that ironically were created to protect their sometimes tender egos. Some, like Sampson, are able to handle what's thrown at them and what they step in so long as their hair is not cut by one of the many waiting Delilahs. Still, others are able to make celebrity do their bidding; they tame it like a wild horse and ride it to a destination of their choosing. They know that it's fleeting, and they treat it like the fickle being that it is.
Celebrity is one of those things that seems to cartoonize or even dehumanize a person. We criticize the celebrities who obviously struggle with fame in very public, humiliating ways, yet we accuse celebrities who are able to take control of fame by being extremely private of being "fake" or denying us of something that we have no right to. I don't believe that celebrities are charity cases, but the public's treatment of them especially at times like this only proves how out of touch we are with what it means to be human.
Although we don't yet know what killed Whitney Houston, many people are looking for someone to blame for this sudden tragedy. Some pin it on Houston's ex husband Bobby Brown, who is often credited with allegedly introducing her to the vices that she fought for a good portion of her life. Some say Houston brought this on herself for allowing addiction to take hold of her. I expect these types of rationals from a society that condemns a person for having a problem while also ridiculing said person for a cheap laugh.
Of all of the people that Whitney Houston leaves behind, I feel the most for her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina. I hope that she finds comfort in the fact that her mother will be loved and cherished worldwide for the music that now immortalizes her.