The price she pays

By Keisha Bell

She was bullied in school as a teenager, so her parents enrolled her into a new one. She was jeered by people who looked like her, yet she loved them anyway. She dealt with miscarriages, addiction and a failed marriage while juggling “stardom” with a steadfast commitment to community service. Who really understands the price she pays? Do you really want to understand her sacrifice?

Meet Whitney Elizabeth Houston, a world-renowned singer, actress and fashion model. Associated by millions with drug usage and a lingering question of what more could have been, Houston is legendary.

Notably, Houston is the only artist to have seven consecutive number one “Billboard Hot 100” songs. Her debut album entitled “Whitney Houston” was both the first debut album and the first album by a solo female artist to produce three number one singles.

Houston’s second studio album entitled “Whitney” became the first album by a woman to debut at number one on the “Billboard 200” albums chart. Furthermore, her performance of “I Will Always Love You” became the best-selling single by a woman in music history.

Houston is the first singer to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period under Nielsen SoundScan system. She also contributed to the “Preacher’s Wife” soundtrack, which is the best-selling gospel album in history.

In truth, Houston had countless accolades during her lifetime. Her accomplishments are remarkable, especially when considering that she was the first African-American woman to receive consistent heavy rotation on the very popular music channel MTV.

Sometimes it can be easy to forget the period of time in which accomplishments are made, particularly accomplishments of women and more particularly accomplishments of African-American women. It is important, however, to remember the totality of what she faces.

It is important to remember the totality in order to truly appreciate her strength and to embrace her worth. Many times, she will not tell you about the obstacles she faces. Most times, she is not asked.

Clive Davis, the record executive who signed Houston when she was 19 years old, dubbed her “The Voice.” She understood her vocal gift at a very young age, as did many around her. It did not take long after receiving her first record contract for the world to agree.

Houston’s talent was loved by the world, but did the world love her? Does it ever love her?

Because Houston was making history as the first woman, and more particularly as the first black woman, she had to endure things that oftentimes get lost amidst the bright lights and applause. She paid a dear price for the sacrifice she made to share with the world her passion. Her influence has touched the lives of many fans, as well as, inspired many singers who follow her footsteps.

Houston was found dead in a bathtub in a hotel room. She lived from August 9, 1963, through February 11, 2012. Interestingly, Houston was in the middle of a comeback. The price she paid left many wanting her to simply come back.

Keisha Bell

Keisha Bell

How do we prepare our girls for the price to be great? Houston leaves us to wonder.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author and public servant. To reach Bell, email her at or log on to to view more of her work.

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