Whitney Houston's Come Back. Have You?

7 years ago

Whitney Houston, Mickey Rourke, Jennifer Hudson, Mackenzie Phillips: What comes to mind when you hear these celebrities names? I know the one I hear. It's "comeback."

When Jennifer Hudson sang at the Super Bowl at the beginning of this year, the media went wild with Hudson comes back headlines, and they should have. If you had faced what Hudson faced--your mother, brother, and nephew all murdered in the same day--could you have gone before millions less than three months later to sing?

And did she sing? Critics say she not only sang but she dazzled. The public felt deep compassion for Hudson because of that horrific tragedy, and so did I, but while I applaud her for her dignity and stoicism, I think of her admirable resilience more akin to a spectacular rebound than a full-fledged comeback.

Whitney Houston InStyle coverShe wasn't gone from the public eye for years, not like Rourke, Houston, or Phillips. Neither did she have to overcome the stigma of self-inflicted tragedy. A murderer mauled her life, ripped the people she loved from her. She didn't trash her career.

During the year that Hudson faced tragedy, Mickey Rourke's epic comeback unfolded and continued into 2009 when he was nominated for an Oscar for The Wrestler. He didn't win. Sean Penn won, but Penn getting the Oscar makes Rourke's comeback no less worthy of contemplation.

"After ten years went by and I wasn't working, I thought I'm never comin' back. The only thing I had going was hope."

Ask Mickey Rourke and he will tell you: His best work is decades behind him. Years before, his bad-boy behavior derailed a promising career.

That is, until this year, and this film "The Wrestler," and what could be a re-defining moment for the 56-year old actor. (Mickey Rourke, The Comeback Kid at CBS)

As the CBS story tells us, "Rourke made a name for himself years ago in movies such as Diner, and then he threw it all away," and those of us who recall his downward spiral back in the day heard the stories. He threw it all away in a self-destruction waltz, and he was good. Someone to watch. The CBS story is not exaggerating when it says people were comparing him to Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro. So, what he says in this next quote is not cockiness, it's just a fact of his life.

"Once you've been somebody, really, you have a career and you're a nobody anymore (again?), and you're getting older, you're living what's called a state of shame. I went through that in the movie business, you know? You are alone." (Rourke to CBS)

You may not have ever been a highly visible star like Rourke, but you probably know what he's talking about. Some of us have been Mrs. Doctor with lots of friends and a packed social calendar until the divorce or until one of our children was picked up for drugs. Some of us used to be at the top of the corporate ladder until a downsizing; some of us have had clout in our own small pond until we did something incredibly stupid that we've never told anyone, and some of us simply remember we used to be hot and tight until we ate way too many pints of Haagen Daaz and stopped hitting the gym or doing anything to maintain our health.

We can all play the I'm-so-spiritually-evolved game and say, "Oh, but that doesn't mean I'm nobody now. I'm always somebody." And we'd be right. But the point is, if we're honest, many of us know what it feels like to fall from a higher level of performance or place, stuck with that desire to make a comeback while feeling we'll never make it.

Maybe worse, if we've been as low as Whitney Houston, we may at some point have been in a place so dark we didn't grasp that we needed to come back. I wrote at my personal blog earlier this month: "I have been pleased to see ... Houston's comeback.

She sang at the American Music Awards this year, "I Didn't Know My Own Strength." Although some have seen fit to critique her voice and say she's lost something, I was greatly moved by the performance.

When I see her I always think of my mother who passed away last year. Whenever she saw Whitney, she would say, "That's Cissy Houston's girl," referring to Whitney's mother, a renowned gospel singer. ... The ability to move and inspire is rarely in the technical delivery but in the soul. (WSATA)

In the last week, I've seen more stories of Houston's comeback on the web, such as Bridget Bland's "Whitney Houston: A Cover Girl Again" and Jenn's post at Celebrity Parenting, which talk about Houston on the cover of next month's InStyle magazine.

She’s back InStyle, she opens up to the magazine about her struggle years. The 46 years old singer of I Look to You was not planning to comeback, in the meaning of comeback to her bitter past, only trying to be “normal.”

“I had really decided that I was not going to return. I was going to be mother to my kid, just be normal,” Whitney said. “I had had enough of the fame, the fortune. I had the marriage, I had my experiences, put them in my back pocket, and just wanted to keep it moving.” (Celebrity Parenting)

The "kid" is her daughter Bobbi ‘Krissy’ Kristina, 16. Krissy's father is Houston's ex husband, Bobby Brown. Even people who didn't follow Houston avidly at her peak knew Brown contributed greatly to his wife's fall from celebrity grace. However, she did a lot of damage by herself to herself, as she told Oprah in September, and that included drug abuse.

Oprah: Did the drugs give you any sense of relief?

Whitney: At times. Don't forget, there were some times we'd laugh our tails off. We had a ball. Sometimes you do have a good time. But when it gets to the point where you're sitting in your home and you're just trying to cover what you don't want people to know. It's painful. And then you want more just so that you don't let anybody see you cry. Or anybody to see we're not happy. ...

Oprah: And so you thought that your life as Whitney Houston, as we know her, was done?

Whitney: I wasn't even thinking about that. I had so much money and so much access to what I wanted and everybody was [asking] me" "What do you want? What do you need?" I didn't think about the singing part anymore.

Oprah: You didn't miss it?

Whitney: No. (Read more at Oprah.com)

I didn't follow Houston much when she dominated music charts. I recognized she was talented, and I sang along with some of her hits. She was a mega-star, but I was never what you'd call a Whitney fan. Still, I heard the rumors about Bobby Brown's abuse, the drugs, and as late as 2007, I'm pretty sure I caught blog posts on her troubled life.

She was honest enough to tell the bad parts to Oprah, one of which was how she seemed to go to rehab the way some of us go for our annual check up, thinking that drugs and detox were simply parts of her life as a star. She thought that until her mother, Cissy Houston, showed up on her doorstep with a little help:

It's kind of funny. But now looking back at it, I see the love and the passion that my mother had for me, that she has for me.

She walks in with the sheriff and she says: "I have a court injunction here. You do it my way or we're not going to do this at all. You're going to go on TV, and you're going to retire. And say you're going to give this up because it's not worth it." (Oprah Show video)

And this is where I think of my own mother, how she'd step in if she had to and how she used to look at Whitney: "That's Cissy's girl." Some of us old-schoolers also know she's Dionne Warwick's cousin.

I read in one of the post on Houston's InStyle cover that she, her daughter and her mother recently had a group portrait taken, three generations of Houston women, and so she's back, not only as a star but as a woman living her life where she should be. She's looking good and performing again. She's even back enough for some controversy such as "Was she robbed by a Grammy's shut-out?"

Here's Houston singing at the AMA's, "Didn't Know My Own Strength," and the lyrics are posted below the video.

"Didn't Know My Own Strength"
as preformed by Whitney Houston, written by David Foster and Diane Warren

Lost touch with my soul
I had no where to turn
I had no where to go
Lost sight of my dream,
Thought it would be the end of me
I thought I’d never make it through
I had no hope to hold on to,
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

Found hope in my heart,
I found the light to life
My way out of the dark
Found all that I need
Here inside of me
I thought I’d never find my way
I thought I’d never lift that weight
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength

And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

There were so many times I
Wondered how I’d get through the night I
Thought took all I could take

I didn’t know my own strength

Each year we probably have some celebrity comebacks to review, like that of Tom Delay, a politician who appeared on Dancing With the Stars, and MacKenize Phillips, the former bad girl who we learned had the worst kinds of obstacles in her life to mix her up.

There's something about a comeback story that pricks us. They say, "Yes, you may make mistakes and yes, people may do horrible things to you, but you can survive it."

I had to share Houston's song with you because I think someone out there needs to hear it, and consider that they do not know their own strength, that if they will listen to those who want to help them or more importantly look for the voice inside that wants to survive and live life, they may also sing one day "I didn't know my own strength."

Yes, that's sappy, but please blame it on the season, and if you're so inclined, please consider what have you faced in your life, perhaps even this past year and decade, what have you overcome that makes you a comeback kid? How did you grow because of that struggle, and what can you now give to others because you've faced a "darkest hour"? Do tell.

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE & you can find her other stuff through Her 411.

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

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