She had it all: an exquisite voice and a face to match. Who could ever forget her performance in The Bodyguard, probably one of the all-time greatest films? Now Whitney Houston is dead at 48, possibly a victim of alcohol or drugs, and perhaps of herself.
Did she pay for her stardom with her life? If so, why is it that some entertainers fall and others prosper? That point came home to me watching Meryl Streep so rightly win a BAFTA for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. The same weekend Whitney died, Meryl shone, even among much younger and more glamorous stars.
I first spotted Meryl’s acting talents in 1978. Even then she was a serious actress, not just another Hollywood starlet. And since then, her every film portrayal has been perfection.
She married and raised a family of four successfully, ignoring the pitfalls of fame. You cannot imagine her giving in to Hollywood demands to become a size zero or to take part in silly publicity stunts. Not a whisper of scandal has ever touched her. At 62, Meryl retains the ability to laugh with the film crew between takes, then click straight back into character the second the cameras start rolling.
If only Whitney had possessed her inner strength and stability. Whitney’s passing is another in the long line of the beautiful and the damned who paid for their success with untimely death: Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, and Heath Ledger are the ones who most recently spring to mind.
Prescription drugs or alcohol proved toxic and fatal for them; maybe for Whitney, too. But she openly admitted her problems with substance abuse. She once told Oprah Winfrey that doing marijuana laced with crack cocaine "was an everyday thing... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself."
Whitney’s 170 million record sales will be a poor consolation to her bereft teenage daughter and family. They saw her losing her looks and heard that wonderful voice diminished by her own addictions and dependency. Now she is gone forever.
It would be an even greater sadness if people did not learn something from her loss. If anyone thinks they can mess with lethal substances and get away with it — think of Whitney Houston. And keep thinking.