“Whitney: Can I be Me?” which originally aired in August tells the true story of pop icon Whitney Houston’s’ love life and drug addictions. The film offers a view of the legend that humanized her while giving insight into how she became the woman we all loved. I was especially fond of the way her relationship with fame was presented. It seemed as if Whitney was fated to be one of the biggest musical acts of all time. Between her mother, Cissy Houston’s vocal coaching and the sheer will of mogul Clive Davis, Whitney was always going to be thrust into the spotlight, for better or for worse. The film is centered around Whitneys’ 1999, “My Love is Your Love” tour. This was her last successful tour. It was also the last tour that her longtime friend, personal assistant and rumored lover, Robyn Crawford was apart of. It was a scandalous event that would mare Whitney’s image and further cement her as the “addict” she would later be infamously seen as.
Thankfully, this film gives context and background into why Whitney’s behavior on this tour was especially erratic. Whitney’s drug use and the community of people she was surrounded by seemed to implode on itself during this exact moment. Her marriage to Bobby Brown and longtime relationship with Robyn Crawford came to a head on the tour as well. The rumors of Whitney’s bisexual relationship with Robyn swirled since Whitney became a star, but it seems it was this tour especially that broke the bond the two shared. Whitney and Robyn themselves deny being lovers but others in their circle, Bobby Brown included suggest that had Whitney been allowed to be in a full relationship with Robyn she might have still been alive today.
The pace of the film is refreshing as sometimes biopics’ attempt to fit everything about the star into a 90 minute block. However, Director Nick Broomfield knew what story he wanted to tell. More than anything, Broomfield presents Whitney as a lover. It is her love and desire to please others that leads to her meteoric rise to fame. But that same love and desire to please others is what forced her to choose to pleasing others over caring for herself over and over and over again. It seems that after her relationship with Robyn ended, the only time she could actually be herself was when she was getting high. A coping mechanism, which contrary to personal belief did not start with her marriage to Bobby Brown. Whitney is from Newark, New Jersey and had been indulging since she was a pre teen. She also was not originally intending to become a pop star. But her desire to please her mother Cissy and the influence of music mogul Clive Davis, sealed her fate. Whitney is almost presented as sacrifice to the fame gods. Because she paved the way for black female singers in the industry she had to deal with the scary dark side of fame and unfortunately, she didn’t survive.
“Whitney: Can I Be Me?” is a beautifully made film that really reminds it’s viewer of all that Whitney accomplished. She’s so much more than what she appeared to be in the last few years of her life. The documentary is now airing on Showtime