Did it bother you that many people saw Clive Davis as the Svengali behind your early career?
Sometimes it did when critics would say that Clive told me what to do and how to do it, because that's all bullshit. I don't like it when they see me as this little person who doesn't know what to do with herself – like I have no idea what I want, like I'm just a puppet and Clive's got the strings. That's bullshit. That's demeaning to me, because that ain't how it is, and it never was. And never will be.
I wouldn't be with anybody who didn't respect my opinion. Nobody makes me do anything I don't want to do. You can't make me sing something I don't want to sing. That's not what makes me and Clive click, because if it was, I'd have left Arista a long time ago. Clive and I work well together. We basically like the same things, which, thank God, allowed us to get along all these years. We get on each other's nerves sometimes, but we've been together ten years now. Anybody can get on anybody's nerves over that long a time.
Were you surprised that the first album got so large?
You know, it gets to the point where the first couple of million you go, "Oh, thank you, Jesus!" [Laughs] I mean, let's face it, you make a record, you want people to buy your record – period. Anybody who tells you "I'm makin' a record 'cause I want to be creative'' is a fucking liar. They want to sell records. As it went on – and it went on – I took a very humble attitude. I was not going to say, "Hey, I sold 13 million records – check that shit out." My mother always told me, "Before the fall goeth pride."
I'm still the same way. With "I Will Always Love You," I had no idea. I knew the song was incredible. I knew I had sung the shit out of it. But I had no idea that that record would sell so much, so fast.
In one week the album sold over a million copies.
Oh, man, it was like "What's happening?" I really think people were hungry for something that just had a melody and some good lyrics.
I talked to Dolly Parton by phone not too long ago. She said to me [imitates Parton's accent]: "Whitney, I just want to tell you something. I'm just so honored that you did my song. I just don't know what to tell you, girl." I said, "Well, Dolly, you wrote a beautiful song." And she said: "Yeah, but it never did that well for me. It did well for you because you put all that stuff into it."
You just crushed it.
I think Dolly Parton is a hell of a writer and a hell of a singer. I was so concerned when I sang her song how she'd feel about it, in terms of the arrangement, my licks, my flavor. When she said she was floored, that meant so much to me.
How has your huge success changed your life?
It's really strange. Michael Jackson said it best: You become this personality instead of a person. That's what's strange about this image business – the more popular you become, the weirder they want to make you. I read some stuff about myself in the last year – it's like "Who the fuck are they talking about?" I mean, they talk about my husband . . . . They don't even know him. They have no idea who he is. They don't know what we're like when we're in this house.
But the media always distorts shit. It's never, never what I said; it's never how I said it; it's never how I thought that person perceived me. It's always some other crazy shit – which is why I don't like doing interviews. Because they lie. They just outright lie.
Are you referring to the rumors that you were having a relationship with Robyn Crawford?
You know what? I am so tired of this. I'm really sick of it. People want to know if there is a relationship: Our relationship is that we're friends. We've been friends since we were kids. She now is my employee. I'm her employer. And we're still best of friends. That's what it is. You mean to tell me that if I have a woman friend, I have to have a lesbian relationship with her? That's bullshit. There are so many, so many female artists who have women as their confidantes, and nobody questions that. So I realize that it's like "Whitney Houston – she's popular, let's fuck with her." I have denied it over and over again, and nobody's accepted it. Or the media hasn't.
People out there know I'm a married woman. I mean, what kind of a person am I – to be married and to have another life? First of all, my husband wouldn't go for it – let's get that out of the way, okay? He's all boy, and he ain't goin' for it, okay? But I'm so fucking tired of that question, and I'm tired of answering it.
Fine. So how did you and Bobby hook up?
Bobby and I met at the Soul Train music awards. He was kicking Don't Be Cruel – he was hot, he was on fire. I and some friends of mine were sitting behind him. I was hugging them, we were laughing, and I kept hitting Bobby in the back of the head. Robyn said, "Whitney, you keep hittin' Bobby, he's goin' to be mad at you." I leaned over and said, "Bobby, I'm so sorry." And he turned around and looked at me like "Yeah, well just don't let it happen again." And I was like "Oooooh, this guy doesn't like me."
Well, I always get curious when somebody doesn't like me. I want to know why. So I said, "I'm going to invite Bobby to a party." And I did. And he called back and said, "I'd love to come," which was a surprise. He was the first male I met in the business that I could talk to and be real with. He was so down and so cool, I was like "I like him."
Then we saw each other again, like four months later at a BeBe and CeCe Winans show. After the show, CeCe had a party, and we all went out to dinner. At the end of the dinner, Bobby walked up to me and said, "If I asked you to go out with me, would you?" At the time I was dating someone, but it was kind of ehhhh. So I said, "Yeah, I would." And he said, "You really would?" – he's so cool – "I'll pick you up tomorrow at eight." And we've been friends ever since. See, our whole relationship started out as friends. We'd have dinner, laugh, talk and go home. It wasn't intimate. And then it kind of dawned on us, "What's going on here?"
The first time he asked me to marry him, I said [laughs]: "Forget about it, no way. It's just not in my plans." After a year or so, I fell in love with Bobby. And when he asked to marry me the second time, I said yes.
How conscious were you about how different you seem from each other?
We talked about it, but when you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place. Bobby comes from Boston, out of the projects. I come from Newark out of the projects. Bobby has two very strong parents, I have two very strong parents. I mean, people don't know a lot about Bobby. All they say is, Bobby the Bad Boy. I mean, they hear Bobby came from the streets. They know Bobby has been, you know, maybe shot or stabbed, or that Bobby's been in one gang or another. But growing up, we all have a rebellious stage. Bobby's energy is street. My husband's got a lot of energy, period [laughs].
You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.
How have you and Bobby influenced each other?
Two years ago, Bobby spent a lot of time with me while I was on tour. And on his tour I spent a lot of time with him. We watched each other. I admire him because he makes people go where he wants them to go. Bobby's very sensual, very sexual onstage. Women watch my husband with an intensity that I've never seen before. It's like they get turned on.
I've learned to be freer from Bobby. I've learned to be a little more loose. Not so contained, you know? I like the way my husband moves – I wish I could move like him. He just naturally has this . . . [imitates Bobby's strut in her seat and laughs wildly]. And since I've been around him, I've gotten, you know, a little bit freer with my shit [laughs].
Bobby'll listen to me sing, and we'll work on things together. Like falsetto, different voices, things that he wants to learn how to do with his voice. And he'll say to you today that he's become a better vocalist by being with me. I help him with his breathing, and I help him keep his voice in shape.
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