Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9th 1963 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American pop, R&B, and soul singer and actress. She was one of the most popular and successful singers of the 1980s and 1990s, and one of the only singers to claim multiple awards, including multiple Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, two Emmys, and an Academy Award.
Houston is a singer who grew up in a musical family: Her mother is Grammy award winning gospel/R&B singer Cissy Houston, and her cousin is Grammy Award winning singer Dionne Warwick. By age 11, Houston was performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist church in Newark. As a teenager, she began accompanying her mother in concert (as well as on her 1978 album Think It Over).
She was a backing singer with established acts, such as Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson, and Lou Rawls, as well as the lead vocalist on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party".
Somewhat bizarrely, Houston's first recording as a featured vocalist was with Bill Laswell's experimental jazz-funk ensemble Material; their 1982 album One Down placed Houston alongside such avant-gardists as Luther Vandross, Archie Shepp, and Fred Frith. She also appeared as a model in various magazines, appearing on the cover of Seventeen magazine. (Steve Huey, All Music Guide)
By 1983, Houston had entered a worldwide contract with Arista Records after Arista chief Clive Davis heard Houston perform at a nightclub with her mother. The following year had her first commercial success when "Hold Me", a duet with Teddy Pendergrass, crept into the U.S. top fifty on the pop-singles chart while reaching the top five of the R&B charts. However, the rest of that year was taken up with the recording of a debut album. Clive Davis, who had taken a strong personal interest in the vocalist, insisted on selecting the best songwriters and producers in search of the definitive debut album.
Her eponymous first album was released in February 1985, from which time it began its slow rise up the album charts. Its steady climb was encouraged by the success of the singles "You Give Good Love" and "Saving All My Love for You", which reached numbers three and one, respectively. The latter single also saw her on top of the charts in the UK and much of the rest of the world. The soul-influenced "How Will I Know" and the more soul-flavored "Greatest Love of All", both topped the US charts in rapid succession.
A year to the month after its release, Whitney Houston hit number one on the album charts. It eventually sold over fourteen million copies in the U.S. alone, making it the best-selling debut ever by an American female artist (tied with Britney Spears's 1999 debut album Baby One More Time) Her success was acknowledged by a series of prestigious awards, notably a Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female Grammy for "Saving All My Love for You" and an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety Program on TV.
Whitney's popularity was growing fast. She landed an advertising deal with Coca-Cola, guest-starred on Gimme a Break and Silver Spoons, and even auditioned for the part of Sondra Huxtable on the number-one show in the nation, The Cosby Show (she lost the part to Sabrina Le Beauf).
In July 1992, Whitney Houston married R&B singer Bobby Brown; the relationship would prove turbulent. The same year she made a credible acting debut in the movie "The Bodyguard" alongside Kevin Costner. Houston recorded six songs for the phenomenally successful soundtrack album - powerful cover versions of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You", which topped the US chart for fourteen weeks and the UK charts for 10, and Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman", in addition to "I Have Nothing", "Run To You", "Queen of the Night" and "Jesus Loves Me". The album went on to sell seventeen million copies in the U.S and thirty-seven million all over the world, making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time. The movie went on to gross over $120 million in the U.S. and over $410 million worldwide, making Whitney Houston a movie star was well as a pop star.
Houston won numerous awards in 1993 including Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance-Female, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year. In 1993, Houston gave birth to her only child, a daughter, whom she named Bobbi Kristina Brown. In 1994, Houston went on to win a record eight American Music Awards (tied with Michael Jackson's Thriller from 1984). Also in the year, Whitney Houston became the first American singer to perform in post-apartheid South Africa. Her concerts raised money to aid South Africa's children.
In 2000, Houston got into trouble as she was found with marijuana at an airport in Hawaii and she skipped out on a performance at the Oscars (Faith Hill was a last-minute replacement for Houston). Nevertheless, in 2000, Arista released, Whitney: The Greatest Hits, a two CD compilation of Houston's biggest hits. "Disc One — Cool Down" featured a collection of her ballads as well as two new tracks, "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (a duet with Enrique Iglesias) and "Same Script, Different Cast" (a duet with Deborah Cox). Both songs received considerable airplay in the U.S. "Disc Two — Throw Down" is a collection of her dance songs and remixes. It also featured two new songs, "Fine" and "If I Told You That" (a duet with George Michael). Neither song made a splash in the U.S.; however they were hits internationally.
Greatest Hits has sold over ten million copies worldwide. In 2001, Houston and Arista Records agreed to re-release her version of the Star Spangled Banner to benefit the families of police officers and firefighters killed during the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It sold more than 300,000 copies, raised more than one million dollars, and earned Houston yet another top-ten single as it peaked at number six.
In the year 2000 Houston's public image became tarnished when it was revealed that she had been battling spousal abuse with her husband. Additionally she had clearly lost a great deal of weight and this, coupled with shaky (sometimes cancelled) public performances gave way to rumours of cocaine addiction. Many thought that her vocals sounded strained, and that her voice was worn down.
2001 brought Houston her first major producing assignment: the hit teen Disney comedy The Princess Diaries starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, which grossed over $100 million dollars in the box office. She also produced two other major assignments for Disney: the 2003 TV film The Cheetah Girls, about the tribulations of an all-girl pop group, starring Raven-Symone, and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) grossed over $100 million. Although these efforts were successful, Houston was criticized by her fans for producing "bubble-gum pop-ish" material.
In 2002, Houston admitted in a television interview with Diane Sawyer to abusing cocaine, marijuana, and various other drugs. She claimed to have stopped using illegal drugs, but seemed to be making the admission to address the rumours circulating about her lifestyle. During the interview, Houston's comment about having never used crack cocaine because it was "for poor people" caused a new uproar. In March 2004, Houston entered a drug rehab program in California. Over the Spring and Summer of 2004, Houston performed at a few concerts in Europe (the Soul Divas Tour with Natalie Cole) and her own concert tour in Asia. In September 2004 she made a surprise appearance at the World Music Awards to sing for Clive Davis. They announced that they would soon start working on a new album for Houston, to be released in 2005, in which a duet with Alicia Keys is rumored to be featured. In March 2005, Houston's chances at a comeback appeared slim when she entered rehab for the second time. However, she finished rehab in May 2005. In an interview with Access Hollywood, Davis announced that he was returning to the studio with Houston to finish the album they had begun before she had started rehab. Throughout the Summer of 2005, Whitney will be hard at work recording this new album, which is set for an early 2006 release.
She appears in the reality series Being Bobby Brown with her husband. The show follows the couple and their family around, and is broadcast in the U.S. on the Bravo network.