CLEVELAND - Whitney Houston is dead. It's still hard for me to wrap my head around this fact.
As soon as I heard the news, I immediately began to reflect on my one-time meeting with this music legend. I was a rookie entertainment reporter at the time, working for a national cable network. My assignment was to cover the movie junket for "The Preacher's Wife."
On my interview list were the best of the best: actor Denzel Washington, director Penny Marshall, and of course Whitney Houston. I was a nervous wreck. I had interviewed Denzel several times before, and he was always upbeat and fun to talk to. I'm a big Laverne and Shirley fan, so I was very excited to meet "Laverne" in person.
But Whitney Houston? I couldn't believe it. I'm going to sit down and talk to Whitney Houston for a whole five minutes. WOW! What a great opportunity for me to interview a woman whose songs I have memorized and sang a million times in front of my bathroom mirror.
I can remember singing "The Greatest Love of All" at a talent show. Yes, I tried to sing like Whitney Houston and failed at the attempt. Whitney's music helped me through the ups and downs of my personal relationships. Her voice was so powerful, yet it would touch you in the most delicate way and expose your vulnerabilities. Whitney Houston's music would provoke you to dance, cry , laugh and think.
"The Preacher's Wife" hit close to home for Whitney Houston. As she revealed to me during our interview, it was a release for her to be a part of a movie that allowed her to express her sincere faith in God. Her musical roots are in gospel music. She grew up singing in a church in Newark, New Jersey where her mother, Cissy Houston, is still a member today.
Asking Whitney Houston about her faith during our interview came as natural as breathing to me. It was evident that she was very comfortable sharing this part of who she was. She shared with me that during the making of the film, there were times when she knew the Holy Spirit had taken over and she liked that.
So, it is not surprising to me that the last, public vocal performance of Whitney Houston is a duet with Kelly Price singing "Jesus Loves Me." With her extensive musical repertoire of number one hits, she chose to sing a song that I believe had special meaning to her.
The interview flew by way too fast for me because I really enjoyed our verbal exchange on the film and her faith. She was giving and didn't seem to hold back on what she was feeling about the project personally. For a reporter, this is the type of interview you hope for. As a fan, I was inspired to continue to buy her music, only now I have a special memory attached to the woman who sings it.
Yes, Whitney Houston had her flaws. But she also had a gift that she chose to share with the world.
Yes, some would say she was a troubled soul. But through all her mountain top and valley experiences, her last words to us are "Yes Jesus loves me/Yes Jesus loves me/ Yes Jesus loves me/For the Bible tells me so."