Monday, July 30, 2012

#BookReview: The Whitney I Knew - Bebe Winans

When I saw the announcement of this book in June, my first thought was, "It's too soon.  Has she been properly grieved yet and people are putting out books?"  I admit upfront that I'm a Whitney stan.  From the moment I saw her singing You Give Good Love on Video Soul, I was hooked.  She was gorgeous and her voice was heavenly.  So you'll understand that I took her death personally and stayed in bed the day of her funeral, watching it from beginning to end as the choir sang and her friends and family remembered her.

Through the comments and singing, I was able to maintain my composure.  Then BeBe Winans stepped up to talk about his "sister" and brought his birth sister, CeCe with him.  I've followed the careers of BeBe and CeCe since the late 80s, so I was aware that Whitney appeared on some of their early tracks and that they were friends.  I knew that Whitney and CeCe were like sisters, but was not aware of how close Whitney and BeBe were until he began recounting stories of their times together.  His words and his singing brought tears to my eyes then and again as I read The Whitney I Knew.

With Winans' words, readers are reminded that what we see of celebrities is not all there is.  Though to some it feels as though this book was rushed out to capitalize on Houston's fame, I think it was an attempt to humanize her.  Winans shares stories of Whitney that aren't well known.  For example, for her 26th birthday, Michael Jackson sent her a monkey.  Perhaps it was because he was living a secluded lifestyle and knew the loneliness that came with fame, so he decided to give her a companion.  Whitney, however, laughed it off and said that monkey was getting dropped off at the zoo!

I loved that Winans was close enough to her to see the regular girl from Jersey side of her and share a few glimpses into their friendship.  He talked about how she loved to talk on the phone and how she would invite him and CeCe over for lunch as if New Jersey and Tennessee were right next door.  The stories of how she would pop up at their concerts and sing background as if it were the most natural thing in the world and as if she weren't THE Whitney Houston or how she claimed the entire Winans clan as family from the moment she met them made her all the more charming.

I was slightly taken aback at how Winans weaved stories of other celebrities in, at times it seemed that he was name dropping just to prove how close he was to them.  At one point, he brings up Vanessa Williams and the incident that caused her to give up her Miss America title.  All I could think was, "You had to bring up Vanessa though? I mean, she's somewhere minding her business and you're rehashing a story from 30 years ago. Seriously, BeBe???"

Overall, this book is a testament to the friendship and kinship that Winans had with Houston.  With the offering of pictures from personal family collections and rarely seen video footage, Winans welcomes fans of Houston to see her as he, and those closest to her, saw her.  It's a glimpse you won't want to miss.

Published: July 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Theme: Jesus Loves Me by Whitney Houston

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