“They Can’t Take Away My Dignity”

I can’t stop myself. I need to write about the passing of Ms. Whitney Houston. Though it varies slightly from my typical posts, Whitney was and will continue to be an inspiration for many a young woman.

A friend asked me today, “What did Whitney mean to you?”

I didn’t think about it, I just reacted.

She kept my feet on the ground, I explained. She told me to love myself, to take things step by step, to always believe in a love that is greater than myself, to exhale when I know I’ve found “the one.” To be “Every Woman.”


I am what I like to call, Whitney’s Number-One Fan. It’s true. I’m it. I love her, as a fan, more than anyone else. I should have been on MTV’s show “FANatic.” They messed up, big time.

I was first introduced to the magic that was Whitney when I was about nine. My mom played her tape in the car (yes, those, age-old cassette tapes) and said something to the effect of, “I want to play a song for you. I think you will like it.”

I recall being skeptical. Then I head The Voice.

I believe the children are our future,” the song began.

Children? I’m a child. I could get behind this.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

Yes, I agreed with that, too. If I am taught well, I can be a leader, I thought.

I was hooked. And by hooked I mean I listened to her first, self-titled album, “Whitney Houston,” on repeat, for years and choreographed dances to go along with each song. My Dad bought me her third album, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (also in cassette form) and I fell in love all over again. That long note at the end of “Miracle” … I just couldn’t get enough.

I wrote her letters. I talked with her fan club, in tears. I dreamt about the day that I would meet her. She would pull me on stage in recognition that I was her Number-One Fan.

Why do I tell you this? 

Whitney’s story is tragic. There is no way around it. Talk about Whitney inevitably leads to a mention of drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse, addiction. I was always the one to defend: “No, she is better. Her voice is flawless, the best voice ever.”

What else could I say? I knew the critics were right. But I didn’t care.

And perhaps that is the amazingness that was Whitney Houston. I’m not the only one who didn’t care about her transgressions. In fact, they made her more human. I loved her just as much, if not more. I prayed for her healing, for a new-found rise to the top. I wanted her voice back. We all did.


For Ms. Houston, it always comes back to The Voice. Music is universal. And despite one’s judgments about her personal life, you cannot deny her talent. The world lost the greatest voice of all time on February 11th. But, more importantly, it lost a woman who, through her incredible talent, was able to reach millions of fans, across age, gender, and race. Her voice was enhanced only by her message.

She told all of us to love ourselves as the “greatest love of all,” to take each day “step by step” to envision that “one moment in time” where we reach for the stars, and stretch our destinies to become what we are still too scared to demand.

There are no words to quell the sadness I feel about the loss of Whitney. She was and remains an inspiration for so many by the pure essence of her flawless voice and the power of her passion. May we all carry with us her message, her passion, and her love for life and everything around her.

I will leave you with this:

4 thoughts on ““They Can’t Take Away My Dignity”

  1. Whitney’s tragic and premature death is a testimony to the burden she bore for all of us in carrying such incredible beauty and talent. The pressures on her must have been unparalleled. Many tings will be and have been said, but I would like to add another thought about Whitney and why she touched so many so deeply.

    She had, underneath all that passion and verve and beauty and talent, an innocence and a clarity of spirit. These are qualities rarely found and they filtered through her every note and every move. They became less obvious as the years passed and the problems in her outer life grew, but I believe this innocence and clarity of spirit never left her, they were just covered over with layers of this thing we call ‘life’.

    So, I choose to remember the younger Whitney. Innocence and clarity of spirit are tings we can all use more of, so let’s be inspired by what she gave us. Let’s be better people for it, and perhaps, in some mysterious way, lighten the burden that her fame put upon her.

    • Thanks for your comment! Your perspective is very important to remember and is too easily forgotten in media hype that seems to only focus on the negative.

      Also, thanks for buying me her first tape 🙂

  2. Great post Shelley. I remember on the last day of high school, the senior class was gathered in the cafeteria for some reason I can’t recall now, and a classmate of mine just broke out in her rendition of “Greatest Love of All.” We were all kind of taken aback. She belted out the entire tune. It really stuck with me obviously….that took cojones. And she did a great job too. Clearly, Lauren (her name) was Whitney’s number two fan ;-).

    • Thanks Mark, and thanks for sharing your memory of Whitney. Greatest Love of All is certainly a song that sticks with many. I wish I had the guts to belt it out on the sidewalk right about now 😉 Thanks for reading.

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