This article was originally published by i-D US.
Even when Whitney Houston sat down with Oprah for a "tell all" interview in 2009, it was obvious there was much more to the troubled star's odyssey than we were seeing. Houston's life had three distinct narratives: the one the tabloid papers created, the one Houston so fiercely wanted the public to believe, and the one that actually occurred. Well, Showtime's upcoming Whitney documentary, Can I Be Me?, looks set to show us that last narrative. The project's trailer is released this week, the clip filled with grainy, lo-fi footage of a curly-haired, bright-eyed Houston in the mid-80s, her friends and family talking about her rise and downfall in powerfully honest terms.
"Her music was deliberately pop," one person says about Houston's early sound. "Anything that was too black sounding was sent back to the studio."
Only two minutes long, the clip is filled with a host of authentic moments: Houston sitting in her dressing room in deep thought, stress pooling in her eyes; Bobby Brown carrying her on his shoulders, running down the hallway in pure glee; Houston showing off her talent with a soulful twelve-second vocal run.
As the sensationalism surrounding the singer's death fades away, there have been efforts to rightfully shift Houston's place in pop culture history from "troubled star" to "music icon." Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham took a serious crack at this on their podcast, Still Processing. For close to an hour the two dissected how Houston paved the way for black female artists to achieve crossover pop success, the black politics behind her hair choices, and the culture significance of her history-making Star-Spangled Banner performance at the 1991 Super Bowl XXV.
Hopefully Can I Be Me?, which premieres 26 August, offers us scenes of Houston happy, in control, and at her best — providing a stark contrast to her heavily mocked moments in Bobby Brown's 2005 reality series Being Bobby Brown. A chance for us to see her before the weight of the public's expectations and demands brought her down. Because, as Houston pointedly says to an interviewer during the trailer, "Success doesn't change you, fame does."
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Screenshot via Youtube