Before the millions of record sales, hundreds of awards and international acclaim, Whitney Houston was simply “Nippy from Newark”, a naive young girl, ill prepared for fame.
A new documentary, titled “Can I Be Me”, looks at how Houston, who graduated from child performer to become one of the most-famous female singers of all time, subsequently struggled with drug and alcohol issues before her death in 2012.
“She didn’t know what she was going into, she was so beautiful and you can see she is just having fun,” filmmaker Nick Broomfield told Reuters.
“She was portrayed as, you know, the American princess. So, actually she was from Newark. She was ‘nippy’ from Newark, the ghetto, worst race riots next to Los Angeles in the whole of America.”
Broomfield spent two years going through archives and speaking with people close to Houston, who began singing in a gospel choir in New Jersey at the age of 11 and was discovered in a nightclub in the 1980s by record producer Clive Davis who guided her career.
She found global fame following smash hits such as “I Will Always Love You” – the theme song of what was her film acting debut in “The Bodyguard” opposite Kevin Costner in 1992 – and “The Greatest Love of All.”
Houston won six Grammys and more than 400 other awards in a 25-year career that was marred by drug and alcohol problems and a turbulent marriage to singer Bobby Brown. She died in 2012 after drowning in a hotel bathtub. She was 48.
“She just couldn’t deal with all that, she was looking after so many people and she was always being criticized and I think she just became more and more you know she withdrew into drugs. I think that’s really what happened,” Broomfield said.
(Reporting by Sarah Mills. Writing by Patrick Johnston Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)