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7 times the legendary Whitney Houston proved herself an eternal queer icon

Patrick Kelleher February 11, 2021
Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died nine years ago today. (David Corio/Redferns)

Whitney Houston remains an LGBT+ icon nine years after her untimely death.

The acclaimed singer and actress cemented her extraordinary legacy with a career that spanned several decades and countless hits.

Whitney Houston remains one of the biggest selling music artists of all time with more than 200 million record sales, and her hits are as instantly addictive today as they were when they were first released.

She was a true trailblazer, and her legacy can be found in the countless artists who were inspired by her extraordinary, earth-shaking voice.

The world was shocked when Houston was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel in California on 11 February, 2012. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020 – arguably about 10 years too late – and she holds a special place in the hearts of queer fans across the world to this day.

We reflect on the eight times Whitney Houston proved that she was the ultimate gay icon.

1. Whitney Houston was possibly bisexual and had a girlfriend.

Robyn Crawford and Whitney Houston
Robyn Crawford and Whitney Houston.

Seven years after her death, Robyn Crawford opened up about her intimate relationship with Houston in a tell-all memoir, A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston.

Rumours had abounded about Houston’s sexuality for years, but Crawford’s book appeared to confirm that the singer embraced her queerness during her lifetime.

In her book, Crawford said she and Houston had a relationship that spanned many years and continued throughout the singer’s marriage to Bobby Brown.

The memoir cemented a long-held view among LGBT+ fans that Houston was one of their own, and reaffirmed her place as a bisexual icon.

2. Whitney Houston promised to always be a ‘friend’ to the gay community.

Whitney Houston film
Whitney Houston performing at the 2004 World Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

In a 2000 interview with Out, Houston made her support for the LGBT+ community clear – while also denying rumours about her sexuality.

When asked if the rumours that she was a lesbian had any validity, Houston replied: “I suppose it comes from knowing people… who are. I don’t care who you sleep with.

“If I’m your friend, I’m your friend. I have friends who are in the community. And I’m sure that in my days of bein’ out, hanging with my friends, having nothing but females around me, something’s gotta be wrong with that.”

She went on to insist that she was heterosexual, but added: “I love everybody. If I was gay, I would be proud to tell you, ’cause I ain’t that kind of girl to say, ‘Naw, that ain’t me.'”

3. She wanted to confront Wendy Williams for speculating about her sexuality.

Wendy Williams is honoured with Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 17, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Wendy Williams is honoured with Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 17, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Queer people will know that there are few things as distressing as having your sexuality aired in public when you don’t wish to discuss it.

This was exactly what happened to Whitney Houston when broadcaster Wendy Williams, a gay icon in her own right, repeatedly speculated about the true nature of the singer’s relationship with Robyn Crawford.

During an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show in 2019, Crawford said she and Houston considered waiting outside her studio to confront her about the speculation.

“We weren’t gonna fight, we just wanted to see you face-to-face and have a chat,” Crawford said.

4. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ is an enduring queer classic.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston after winning a Grammy Award for I Wanna Dance With Somebody. (Getty)

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, released in 1987, was a huge hit – and it has proven a timeless classic with queer fans.

The song is famously gender non-specific, meaning everybody can relate to the experience, and it’s always sure to bring all the gays out onto the dancefloor in queer venues.

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” had a moment of unrivalled queer joy the when it was used in the pilot episode of FX series Pose, which centres around New York’s ballroom scene in the 1980s and 1990s, further cementing the song’s place as a queer classic.

5. Her timeless put-down of Mariah Carey still sends chills down queer people’s spines.

Whitney Houston Mariah Carey
Whitney Houston recording with Mariah Carey. (Getty)

When she was asked in 1990 what she thought of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston gave a response that shook the music world – and one that has gone down in history for the extent of its shade.

Houston simply replied: “I don’t think of her,” a response that was possibly more cutting than anything else she could have said.

The pair later recorded “When You Believe” together, so the bad blood must not have lasted too long.

6. When she surprised LGBT+ fans by performing at New York Pride.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) was the top same-sex wedding song for 2019. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Whitney Houston turned up for a surprise appearance at the New York Lesbian and Gay Pride Dance in 1999, and sent queer fans into a meltdown in the process.

She performed “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” – a queer classic in its own right – and “Heartbreak Hotel” to a crowd made up of 7,000 LGBT+ fans.

It was an incredible moment for Houston in which she showed her love and dedication to her most dedicated fans.

7. She didn’t ‘give a s**t’ if people believed she was straight or not.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston performing. (Frederic REGLAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty)

Houston often got defensive when questioned on her sexuality, insisting that she was straight, and reminding reporters that she was married.

When she graced the cover of Out magazine in 2000, the reporter told her that he believed she was straight.

Her response? “It’s not for you to believe me. I don’t give a s**t if you believe me or not.”

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