‘our very own relationship had been romantic on all amounts’: Robyn Crawford on her love for Whitney Houston | Whitney Houston |


the guy story told through Robyn Crawford for the pages of a track For You, a merchant account of her decades-long connection with
Whitney Houston
is sensitive, moving and painful to read through, the real history of a relationship that is also a really love story. Much more acutely, it is the tale of two ladies who, for totality of Houston’s existence, concealed the sexual origins of this commitment, amid intense and sometimes prurient speculation. Meanwhile, Crawford ended up being harangued, marginalised, and allegedly threatened with assault from the singer’s family members. “i discovered comfort during my silence,” states Crawford, whose decision to write the publication was in part a rebuke toward tabloidisation of the woman pal’s legacy. But it is the silence that lingers. Reading her publication, any gets the chilling sense not merely of how alien circumstances happened to be inside the extremely immediate past, but of a story that shouldn’t be repeated in the future.

To break any silence is tough – never mind one implemented over years, at the danger of huge commercial damage to a brandname as useful as Houston’s. Actually seven decades following singer’s death, Crawford demonstrably will continue to have difficulty. In her publisher’s ny workplace, the 55-year-old is softly talked and elegant, picking her terms making use of the care of someone still half stuck for the outlook of shielding her pal.

Crawford and Houston were teenagers when they came across at a residential district middle in East Orange, New Jersey, the performer younger by 3 years. “there was clearly an immediate connection,” Crawford claims. She was actually a basketball celebrity, home from school; Houston was still in twelfth grade. “and then we clicked,” she claims. “She informed me she was actually a musician hence she went along to Mount St Dominic Academy, and I also shared with her I found myself playing basketball plus university. We had been two buddies – it wasn’t like we found at a club. It had been something happened for the stream of a friendship.”

By “something occurred”, Crawford is referring to the years immediately after conference if the two women happened to be sexually involved. If she is coy relating to this, it is with good reason. The warping effect of denial actually easily shrugged off and there is a formidable good sense, throughout the ebook and also in person, of somebody operating a gamut of inner obstacles. Both Houston and Crawford was indeed brought up in God-fearing households, each time whenever, she claims, “you were possibly this, or perhaps you were that”. Officially, they were simply pals, but actually in private they resisted acknowledging that was truly happening. “We never chatted tags, like lesbian and gay,” Crawford produces. “we simply lived our lives, and that I hoped it could embark on by doing this for ever.”

The relationship would, indeed, finally 20 years, nevertheless the intimate relationship ended up being short-lived. In 1980, whenever they met, it actually was already obvious Houston ended up being at risk of stardom: her cousin,
Dionne Warwick
, ended up being a veteran celebrity; her mommy,
, an effective backing singer; and Whitney had caught the eye of record executives in ny. It actually was in addition clear that the woman commitment with Crawford was going to end up being difficulty. At chronilogical age of 19, Houston finalized her very first contract with Arista Records president Clive Davis. In an extraordinary scene during the guide, she then decided to go to Crawford’s home, passed this lady a Bible and told her they had to quit having sex, “because it might generate our journey even more difficult”. She in addition told Crawford that, “if they learned – because the woman career had been removing – they would use it against you”.

‘We had been younger, and courageous, and free.’ picture: courtesy of Robyn Crawford

This really is all said in a tone of quiet expression, in the ebook the pain sensation is actually intense. Crawford went along with Houston’s wishes, and persisted to inside the many years that used. When Houston could manage to, she retained Crawford as the woman associate therefore the women moved into a flat together in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The artist’s control team was small then though – even in the mid-1980s, when Houston’s first couple of albums became two of the biggest-selling debuts of them all, with many 40m duplicates sold global (the eponymous
Whitney Houston
, having its huge hits just how am i going to understand and Saving All the fascination with You; as well as its follow-up, Whitney, featuring we Wanna dancing With Somebody, Thus Emotional and did not We virtually own it All). During those times, Houston had one supervisor, Crawford recalls, “in which he could not get the woman clothing out, get it pressed, rise very early and send it downstairs like i really could. I did so dozens of situations.”

She was happy accomplish them, she states. Care-taking emerged obviously; she’d adult in a family in which the woman daddy had violently abused the woman mama and in which, from an early age, Crawford had taken on role of protector. And she loved Houston, to who she nevertheless pertains by the woman nickname, Nippy. “It actually was about becoming associates on a journey that she understood she ended up being taking place,” she claims. “this isn’t a person who had been pressed into show company. Nippy ended up being someone who really decided on it. She was actually extremely clear-headed about any of it, and I ended up being very strong. I found myself made for that role.”

For many years, Houston and Crawford efficiently functioned as a couple, residing with each other, from time to time (and chastely) revealing a bed, and continuing to be psychologically close. “You had kitties!” I state: if that’s not a lesbian pair, I am not sure what’s. Crawford smiles and claims that, “living together had been like [living with] any other roommate”. They might remain up later writing about songs and hatching plans. However when Houston started dating Jermaine Jackson during the mid-1980s, after that
Eddie Murphy
, and rap star
Bobby Brown
, who she partnered, Crawford acknowledges it was tremendously hard. “The physical element of all of our friendship had been don’t, nevertheless the intimacy… all of our relationship had been intimate on all amounts, that’s how strong it was, and that I wished her to know me as and say, ‘Guess what, this really is happening [with Jermaine].’ And she wasn’t doing that, hence injured more than anything. It failed to feel just like she was cheating on me – it felt a lot more like she was leaving myself down.” Once the brief relationship with Jackson finished, Crawford ended up being indeed there.

This will be the pattern regarding life collectively for the next years: Crawford since the person to whom Houston would switch just like the demands of fame intensified. “I need someone that I’m sure loves me personally in my situation,” Houston once said of Crawford and as the star’s star increased, Crawford turned into the not many men and women she could trust. Really a strength of her guide which evokes with this type of clearness another type of age of stardom – one out of which singers like Houston, Michael Jackson and Madonna controlled less mass media sites, and also at a higher voltage, than performers in the modern atomised mass media. It absolutely was additionally a time when main-stream stars needed to be further unimpeachably heterosexual, and Crawford’s presence – she was usually by Houston’s part – became the subject of more and more frantic speculation. Whenever Houston performed a job interview, she had been expected which she ended up being dating; plus in 1987, a significant profile in Time magazine made regard to the rumours, a lot to Houston’s horror. The artist’s lawyer also rang Crawford, as soon as, to inquire about, “Did you two previously have sexual relations?” (She replied, “Check, I don’t have to tell you everything,” a reply that infuriated Houston whenever she discovered. “all that you needed to carry out had been state no!” she yelled, and hung up on Crawford.)

‘If the woman record organization discovered, she stated, they’d put it to use against you.’ Photograph: courtesy of Robyn Crawford

It is a stretching to recast the silence due to homophobic intimidation as noble, but there’s some thing really moving about the method Crawford found view the woman key record with Houston: since their only exclusive area in a life ruled by general public interest. “it had been a story which was


,” she says. “She realized I experienced it, she realized I presented it, she realized i’d eliminate it. And so I failed to feel an urgency to simply talk. And trust me, people knocked from the doorway.”

People within Houston’s inner circle, meanwhile, became increasingly hostile. When Houston’s mom, Cissy, labeled as their unique relationship unnatural and “insisted that I don’t stroll alongside Whitney in public”, Houston went along with it, while telling Crawford in private, “Robyn, you understand I love you greatly.” When Houston married Bobby Brown, however sporadically yell at Crawford, and Houston would back him upwards. In 1988, when Crawford proposed to Cissy your singer required support on her drug dependency, she was presented with small shrift. Houston’s grandfather banned Crawford from business meetings and, in 1997, after several years of touring with Houston, Crawford had been shut out of a 10-date Pacific Rim trip.

Fundamentally she quit, 2 decades after she and Houston 1st came across. By the time of the artist’s passing in 2012, Crawford was actually staying in outlying New Jersey along with her wife, Lisa, and two kiddies, along withn’t spoken to Houston in many years. “But I was usually indeed there for her,” she says. “we kept feeling she would definitely appear, and I told Lisa, ‘When Whitney comes to all of our home, that doorway has got to open.'”


t is actually a distorting effectation of fame that minor periods can assume a much bigger importance than they deserve. Had Houston perhaps not been in the spotlight, the girl teenage romance with Crawford may possibly have fizzled away anyway, making them liberated to continue on comfortably as pals. Instead, their unique relationship became the elephant in room. In stark media conditions, really the only explanation any of this might be an account – the reason we’re right here today – is basically because two ladies slept together and something turned into well-known. But, as Crawford highlights, the thoughts were genuine. “That energy we had, that real really love, people could feel it, nonetheless they don’t understand what it had been.”

Crawford today: ‘We never chatted tags, like lesbian and homosexual. We simply lived our life.’

Photograph: Caroll Taveras/The Guardian

After Houston’s passing, Crawford found by herself questioning whether she should eventually speak out. “that has been the first time my silence was actually shaken.” Houston was found face down for the bathtub in a hotel room in Beverly Hills. The coroner ruled her death are accidental drowning, caused in part by cocaine and heart problems. “we felt like i will take action, but i did not know very well what that has been,” Crawford claims. “nevertheless anger ended up being here.” By 2012, she had properly managed to move on, returning to her basketball sources in order to become a personal teacher. “Whitney’s globe”, as she sets it, couldn’t have already been further out, as well as after the performer’s demise, Crawford believed the very best method were to lay low. “Then again Krissie occurred.”

36 months after Houston’s death, her only child,
Bobbi Kristina
, passed away from a combination of drowning and medication intoxication on ages of 22; before she passed away, she spent several months in a coma. “that is while I truly tuned into Whitney,” Crawford states. “The tone of all things ended up being unfavorable – you could potentially feel it. I did not have Whitney Houston to my resumé but at work, occasionally, men and women will say, ‘You regularly utilize Whitney, exactly how was


?’ Like it was actually a joke.

That must’ve been one thing

.” She seems pained. “which had not been it. We believed compelled to face right up at that time, not just to raise her legacy, but to honour all of our relationship, because buddies are not something that you should just throw out. You will be happy to state you’ve got a pal, and another you really have during your life. I tell my personal kids on a regular basis [when they overuse the word friend]: that’s an associate at work, that’s a fair-weather buddy right there.”

Viewed through the exterior, the complicated benefit of all this work usually, for usually, the partnership was starkly unequal. Houston might be dedicated: when, in the early times of their particular relationship, Crawford was actually used at an automible car dealership and couldn’t promote an individual auto, Houston dropped in and bought one from this lady, without a whole lot as getting it for a test-drive. Houston exposed the entire world for Crawford, exposing the lady to the allure, travel and interest that type of reputation can deliver. Nevertheless the vocalist may be capricious and spiteful. When, while Crawford was on tour with Houston in London, she went on a romantic date with certainly one of her performers. When Houston revealed they would kissed, she slapped Crawford inside face.

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

“She performed later on tell me that she was actually experiencing vulnerable,” she claims. “She probably had been experiencing beaten. In my opinion she slapped my personal face because she felt that I’d accomplished anything, and she wanted me to know I’d earned that punch. But she gave me a hug after. Because she appreciated myself.”

Surely it had been because she was envious? “I would personally say Whitney was actually possessive. The envy i have experienced was volatile – what my personal mommy experienced with my dad, and quite frankly, just how I watched Bobby address Whitney – that’s envy. Hers was possessiveness:

you are mine


Crawford’s recognition of Houston’s rotten behavior can from time to time be exasperating. For a long time, Houston had been positively homophobic, publicly evaluating homosexuality to bestiality, then independently blasting Crawford for not denying the rumours regarding their commitment strenuously adequate – behaviour Crawford disliked, but moved alongside. After Crawford stop their job with Houston, she was actually provided a lucrative marketing task at Arista registers, before offer was suddenly and inexplicably taken. Months later, Crawford ran into LA Reid, the after that head of Arista, which shared with her it was Houston who’d nixed the task, because “she wasn’t comfortable with myself bringing you in”. It reads as a significant betrayal, much more so because, inside the book, Crawford recounts how during the time she defended Houston’s behavior to her spouse. “she actually is not in her own correct head,” she told Lisa. “it is the people around their.”

In 1995, in a much more jaw-dropping episode, Crawford learned of an account operating from inside the National Enquirer in which it actually was alleged that Houston’s father had chosen a thug to “break the woman [Crawford’s] kneecaps”. Houston had been operating on top of present award victories, such as three Grammys, eight United states Music honors and 11 Billboard Awards, and her song,
I’ll Always Love You
, the title track from Bodyguard, investing 14 months at no. 1. Instead considering her very own position, Crawford’s first idea on hearing concerning Enquirer tale had been for Houston. “these weren’t contemplating how which was creating Whitney feel,” she says. “these people weren’t respecting their. It wasn’t like she told them to get do anything in my experience.” Its an exceptional reaction to an alleged risk of assault: that nobody was thinking about Houston.

Houston with her mom, Cissy, in 1989. Photograph: Getty Pictures

Wasn’t there an electric instability within the connection, we ask. Crawford appears puzzled.

“precisely what do you imply, just?”

I am talking about that, for all that Whitney needed you, wasn’t every thing on the terms and conditions? “We worked side by side. I happened to be here, I realized just what my personal character ended up being. We experience the woman modelling decades with her. I had a driving licence, she didn’t, thus I’d drive this lady. I happened to be watching the woman increase. Whatever she had explained she would carry out, i possibly could view it happening. If you’re asking me, right away was here an imbalance, we usually had balance. We worked really with each other. Then again the more people arrived to it, therefore the bigger she had gotten – you understand, she actually is maybe not black colored enough, they may be usually collectively, what are you doing here, she’s maybe not internet dating anyone – all that had gotten bigger and larger, and she rose. It had been usually indeed there. We’re able ton’t escape it.”

She adds, “If Whitney partnered to you, she failed to you will need to do your job, she caused you as somebody. In the end, it actually was tragic. Although huge difference beside me is actually: we said thank you so much. And that I think that’s what the others should state, as well.”

Of the others, she does not only suggest the legions of followers; she implies people who profited right from Houston – the organization associates and levels of household exactly who, Crawford contends into the publication, bled the performer therefore dry that she didn’t come with option but keeping happening trip, even as her drug use kept the woman physically prone. Cocaine was an element of the two ladies’ everyday lives as teens, until Crawford’s mama had learned and yelled at the woman to stop. It took Crawford a bit, but she did. During the time, Houston had vowed to give up, also. With dreadful poignancy, Houston as soon as shared with her: “Cocaine cannot go in which we are going.”

There was clearly absolutely nothing Crawford could carry out but plead with her to avoid and report this lady drug used to her mommy. “I can prevent, but she cannot,” she believed to Cissy, which as far as she understands performed nothing. Crawford had been equally powerless when it found Houston’s relationships. After Jermaine Jackson, Houston had been mostly single until she married Bobby Brown, although well-known males often requested the girl on. Robert de Niro annoyed her for some time and she decrease for Eddie Murphy, exactly who messed her about and on her big day also known as to say, “do not wed Bobby, he is no-good.” This turned out to be correct. In Crawford’s membership, Houston returned from the woman honeymoon with a three-inch mark down one part of the woman face – the end result, Houston shared with her, of a glass cast during a fight. In accordance with numerous witnesses, Brown presumably stayed violent towards Houston along with her drug utilize expidited. The couple divorced in 2007.

“A lot of the physical stuff that Bobby did ended up being as I wasn’t here,” Crawford states. “nevertheless never ever understood as he would misbehave. He would trash the woman road and I also did not honor him regarding.” For a long time, she cannot understand just why Houston was so publicly forgiving towards Brown. “But now I do,” she claims. It had been a survival procedure. “Because nowadays, she understood exactly how the guy could behave. Anytime he is call at the available producing a scene, you intend to defuse it. And she failed to like to embarrass individuals.”

With Bobby Brown and their girl Bobbi Kristina in 1994. Picture: Getty Graphics

Its informing the most touching part of Crawford’s tale has nothing to do with Houston; rather, it is the trajectory of the woman relationship with Lisa, her girlfriend, a publisher whoever peaceful, healthier demeanour throws into meaning the pure dysfunction around the world Crawford was leaving. Their own romance took off in the same manner Crawford was actually leaving Houston’s orbit, and Lisa informed her she must get help. “She inspired me to head to treatment,” she states and laughs. “‘Either choose treatment, or this is not taking place’ – that is what she stated. Therefore had been obvious I had to develop to greatly help myself personally.”

Even after both were married together with kids, however, Crawford had been vulnerable to getting sucked back in. Individuals would attempt to consult with the woman about Houston, or she would read something in a magazine and quickly, “I would personally take that area of shopping for the girl and trying to figure it all completely. Lisa could see me personally move into it. She’d say, ‘You want to pay attention to you.’ She’d remind myself there i’m, returning in.” Crawford would not be involved in Nick Broomfield’s 2017 documentary about Houston, Whitney:
May I Be Myself
, and states she hasn’t seen it.

The one and only thing she thinks about now with regret is actually a cell phone message Houston left not long before her passing, that Crawford inadvertently removed after a few moments, before she had an opportunity to notice it {play|per