I just left an awkward engagement party, thinking about my insecurities and doubts about society and the pressures of it, and I just wanted to eat some Chinese food, meet up with the man I am currently dating, have him hold me in his arms, watch some movies together, and fall asleep. The night had an aura about it that I wasn’t really sure until I checked my phone. I saw that Whitney Houston has passed away. At first I thought it was a joke, but after seeing news of it everywhere, I was sort of left in a shocked state. This is a woman who filled most of my childhood with moments of joy and entertainment, from happiness, all the way to heartbreaks.
I grew up listening to mostly Hip Hop and R&B, clinging on to Pop’s favorites, Whitney, Mary J Blige, Brandy, Monica, Toni Braxton, En Vogue, and Mariah Carey. These women belted out with all their hearts, their passions behind their lyrics, always evoking a feeling of intensity, and deep emotion, which is, what I believe, the essence of R&B. Being an overly sensitive and emotional man, these songs connected to many of the emotions I would feel on a daily basis, whether it be about someone bullying me, or my mom’s absence, or the struggles any lower middle class teen American might have felt somewhere in the misunderstood 80s and 90s.
As I hit my late teens and early 20s, I always fell back on my Hip Hop and R&B roots, especially when it came to those great dance anthems, standing on those great block platforms, belting out lyrics to songs about broken hearts, jealous men, and struggles women overcame. Lasers and smoke filled the room, evoking the dramatic energy any gay club kid would love to get lost in. These were songs of strength and courage, but also a connection to us being human. We are flawed, have weaknesses, give in, and can also crumble.
We all saw Whitney’s life fall apart before our lives. Her struggle with drugs was made apparent for all eyes to see. She became a laughing stock for her public appearances, and became another face of drug addiction. I participated in this humor, mocking her for her appearances, and consuming what our culture loves to do, indulging in other’s failures. I became what our society wanted us to be, consume in ones struggles, and to let us know that “We are better, because we are stronger”. I am ashamed of admitting to these feelings and events in my life. Making fun of others points out that in return, we are the weak person. This is a totally fucked up structure system that WE as human’s NEED to recognize, and stop.
I did not struggle with addiction personally, but many people in my life have. Growing up with a family surrounded by alcoholism, having friends struggle with alcohol, drugs, and other substance abuse, I saw what it did to their lives, and I felt helpless most of the time, but somehow wanting to help out. As I sat there in the Chinese food restaurant, and later on in my bed, I cried for Whitney, but I also cried for my past and for our humanity. I was frustrated, felt helpless, and wanted to fix what has happened, and it was unfortunate to see someone who has sold MILLIONS of records, considered a WORLD SUPERSTAR, crumble and die. These people have power to influence our lives, to share their talents with everyone, and we are left with tragedy. It’s not speculated yet as to what is the cause of Whitney’s death, but we can be sure to know, that us as the Pop culture can and should admit that we are also held responsible for her death. We took joy in her misery, when we should have learned from her struggles and help in whatever form we can.
As Wendy Williams stated in her response to Whitney’s death, we all need to “Call them out” on their problems, acknowledging that there is something wrong. As a caring person, we must be there for those people who we love and need help them, or we will loose someone close to ourselves, be it a personal family member, a friend, or a music idol that you hold dearly to your childhood and musical history. Next time you think to joke about someone or something, for a moment, think about your influence on the situation. We have lost someone who has changed and set records in the music industry, and I’m lost for words, but this woman has been a person in my life, though I never met, who has shaped and formed the man that stands here today. I will miss you Whitney…