When Robyn Crawford, Whitney Houston’s famed assistant and rumored lover, came out with her memoir, A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston, I knew I had to read it. As a little kid who listened to “I Will Always Love You” and “When You Believe” back in the Philippines, I’ve always been curious about Whitney’s life and journey to stardom. But more than that, I wanted to understand her relationship with Robyn as a queer person rooting for everyone’s queer love story no matter how brief or inconsequential.
Whitney’s name toward the end of her life was always muddled by her drug addiction, her abusive relationship with Bobby Brown and a melee of other controversies. Her devastating demise in 2012 broke the hearts of many who wished to see her rise above her circumstances.
Crawford writes about meeting 17-year-old Whitney in East Orange when she was 19, a moment that changed the course of their lives forever. From the day they met, they were inseparable. And right from the beginning, Crawford wrote about Whitney as a kind of ethereal light that permeated her own life. Whitney’s love for music was evident even at a young age, her ambition to be a singer a driving force of every decision she made.
Music was in every part of the body; she loved it, craved it, and said she was going to be a professional singer. This had been her mantra since she was twelve. She was singular in her focus, outlining all the steps she needed to follow get where she needed to go.
There was something intoxicating about being with someone wholly herself. Whitney Elizabeth Houston was something else.A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston
Their friendship blossomed into a connection deeper than that, as the two became emotionally and physically intimate. This in spite of Whitney’s religious beliefs, and in spite of a career that was about to take off. But their physical intimacy didn’t last long, as Whitney wanted to lay the foundation for her singing career. Their emotional intimacy, however, would last for decades, up until Robyn couldn’t handle the toxicity of Whitney’s marriage to Bobby.
But while A Song For You outlines Robyn’s relationship with Whitney, it is also a love letter to Robyn’s family: her mother Janet, her brother Marty and her younger sister Bina. She captured a striking balance between the chaos that surrounded Whitney and the Houston family – the drug addiction of her two brothers Gary and Michael, her complicated relationship with her mother Cissy and father John – with the tenderness the Crawford family had for each other.
More than anything, the book reflects a black queer woman’s journey as a daughter, a sister, a lover finding her own way into the world. As much as I loved reading about her and Whitney, there was something incredibly powerful getting to know her own story, her life after being so enmeshed in Whitney’s world. It is a story of becoming, of starting over and loving again, of healing in immeasurable ways that are both scarring yet beautiful.
People may try to tear you down, stuff you into a box and slap on labels. They make up stories and try to own you. But it’s your call. You can sing solo, or you can blend; you can grab the spotlight, or you can work the background. The power isn’t in one or the other, it’s in the deciding. It’s in the choosing and the pursuit. It’s you and your dream.A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston
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