Recently the Whitney Houston Biopic entitled, Whitney, premiered on Lifetime. The made for TV movie was a directing debut for Emmy nominated and Golden Globe Award winner, Angela Bassett. Although the movie was entertaining and drew in 4.5 million viewers with a 6.3 rating on IMDB, there was some controversy behind the story.
Yaya DaCosta, from the third season of America’s Next Top Model, was cast in the leading role, Arlen Escarpeta played her husband Bobby Brown. The two gave outstanding performances despite the criticism the movie had received. From the outstanding number of views “Whitney” received you would have to say that the fans tuned in whether it was to support the story or out of sheer curiosity of how the likeness and life of Whitney Houston would be portrayed in her absence. In a statement released on Whitney Houston’s official site her sister-in-law, Pat Houston, who is married to her brother Gary Houston stated,
“I don’t think it ever entered their minds that they were assaulting the legacy of another individual; they just want the job or the opportunity to shine. But to do so in such an incredible way, to go after someone who cannot correct what you get wrong, someone who – like so many people, and especially women – struggled to hold up their humanity and live with dignity despite their personal challenges, is wrong.”
Pat Houston and her family were angry that the biopic continued into production even after they respectfully asked that it did not go to film. They were concerned about how Whitney would be portrayed by people who did not know her. How could they get the story right? Also a major concern was how it would affect her only child, Bobbi Kristina. The movie had been advertised as telling the story of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown but was titled Whitney, as if it told her story. The movie itself seemed to only tell of her drug use, partying, and the awkwardness of her alleged lifestyle.
Pat Houston went on to say,
I question the morality of the making of this because of the lack of experience knowing Whitney’s life. Never would Whitney allow her story to be told by an inexperienced team and how naive of anyone to think otherwise, unless you’re caught up in illusions of grandeur that you can just do anything and people will accept it. This made for TV movie is certainly not a trailer to Whitney’s life story.
After the movie, lifetime aired Bobby Brown: Remembering Whitney and Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances. The shows told her life from the point of view of people who really knew her including Clive Davis and Bobby Brown. The intimate look into her life as told by Bobby Brown described Whitney as a loving and caring woman who was very emotion driven. His perception of Whitney was from inside her life. Bobby played a major role as her husband, the father of her only child, and the love of her life. He knew the intimate details that the outside world was oblivious of
Clive Davis met Whitney at the age of 19 and immediately saw a superstar. He launched her music career and acted as her mentor. In the movie he was portrayed as only caring about her music career. In one particular scene Clive, played by Mark Rolston, was shown speaking to Bobby Brown, actor Arlen Escarpeta, asking him to convince Whitney to go on the tour for her movie The Bodyguard shortly after giving birth. In Clive’s remembrance of Whitney while hosting Whitney Houston Live, he expressed nothing but love, respect, and admiration
In order to portray a life correctly you would need inside views from the people involved to be accurate. Even if the movie was to portray the relationship between Whitney and Bobby, wouldn’t you need knowledge from inside their relationship? Maybe even from those who were directly involved with their lives? If Whitney’s family and friends did not participate could we say that the biopic was more fiction than fact? Including her family and getting their approval could have been that detail that produced a more accurate film. What do you think, was it Whitney or not?
By Cameasha Rucker-Muhammad