In “A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston,” a new book out Tuesday, Crawford finally provides her version of events about her life with the singer.
Much of the book paints a portrait of a supremely talented artist who, as she became more and more successful, found herself in the center of an increasingly destructive maelstrom of competing personalities and interests.
The book follows “Whitney,” the 2018 documentary about the late singer that delves into her childhood, drug habits, troubled marriage and family relationships. Crawford did not sit for an interview for the documentary, which was sanctioned by Houston’s estate.
The documentary and “A Song For You” both detail Houston’s substance abuse and trouble-filled marriage with Bobby Brown.
“Believe me, I’ve done my best to stay out of the spotlight, keeping quiet while others painted their own pictures of me and of us,” Crawford writes in the introduction. “In the nineteen years since I left Whitney’s company I have been pursued relentlessly to share my story. And since her death and that of her daughter, I have been saddened and frustrated by the way she and her legacy have been misrepresented.”
Crawford is finally speaking up, she writes, because she sees it is “my duty to honor my friend and to clarify the many inaccuracies about myself and about who Whitney was … bighearted, determined, unselfish, private, hilarious, and confident in her gifts.”
Here are five things Crawford’s book reveals about the singer.
The extent of her romantic relationship with Crawford
Crawford and Houston — who was called “Nippy” by close friends and family — met as teenagers in New Jersey during their summer jobs, working as camp counselors. They became fast friends, and weeks later, shared their first kiss, Crawford writes. The two became physically intimate early into their relationship, and soon were inseparable.
“You could tell Whitney and I were tight,” Crawford writes. “It wasn’t all about our sleeping together. We could be naked. We could be bare and didn’t have to hide. We could trust each other with our secrets, our feelings, and who we were. We were friends. We were lovers. We were everything to each other. We weren’t falling in love. We just were. We had each other. We were one: That’s how it felt.”
As for their sexuality, Crawford writes that “we never talked labels, like lesbian or gay. We just lived our lives, and I hoped it could go on that way forever.”
Several people in the documentary “Whitney” described Crawford as Houston’s “safety net” and one of the few people who had the singer’s best interests in mind. Houston’s brother Gary disparaged Crawford, telling the documentarian that he didn’t want his sister involved with her: “It was evil. It was wicked.”
Once Houston signed her record deal with Arista, she told Crawford they had to end the physical aspect of their relationship “because it would make our journey even more difficult.”
“By this time, we were feeling the pressure,” Crawford writes. “People knew we were tight and were starting to ask about us. We were so connected we could communicate without talking … The love I felt for Nippy was real and effortless, filled with so much feeling that when we talked about ending the physical part of our relationship, it didn’t feel like I was losing that much.”
Despite never becoming physically intimate again, rumors followed the duo for years.
What Crawford has to say about claims that Houston’s cousin abused the singer
The most explosive claim to come out of the 2018 documentary “Whitney” was that Houston had been molested as a child by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick. In the film, Houston’s brother Gary also said he had been molested by the same relative as a young child.
“Whitney” was sanctioned by the late singer’s estate. Pat Houston, who is married to Gary, is the sole executor of the estate. (Beneficiaries include Houston’s mother, Cissy, and the Houston brothers).
Following the release of the film, Dee Dee’s sister, singer Dionne Warwick, and Houston’s mother strongly rebutted the claim.
Crawford’s book briefly addresses the allegation. She writes of one scene involving Dee Dee Warwick, and that Houston would often remark that “Dee Dee had a ton of talent and easily could have had a successful career but she was just too crazy.”
“Contrary to what has been said, Whitney loved Dee Dee,” Crawford writes. “She spoke fondly of her cousin and maintained close ties to the Warwick family even after she became famous.”
In a follow-up interview on “Today,” Crawford said that she and Houston shared a lot about their families with each other, and Houston never mentioned being molested by Dee Dee Warwick. “If there was any truth to that,” Crawford said, “I would know about it.”
The before and after of Houston’s Super Bowl performance
Houston’s 1991 performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl is regarded as one of the best versions ever performed, and its backstory has been covered in movies and articles over the years.
The Crawford memoir adds another perspective, with some fresh details. Houston was supposed to perform the anthem wearing a sleeveless black cocktail dress and heels while she was backed by an orchestra dressed in black-tie attire. But Tampa was much colder than they anticipated; Silvia Vejar, the personal assistant Crawford says she hired and stayed by Houston’s side, suggested Houston wear the tracksuit she had packed.
“You won’t be out of place,” Vejar said. “It’s appropriate for the occasion, and no one is going to be looking at the orchestra anyway — all eyes are going to be on you.”
Houston, “for some reason I cannot fathom,” did her own hair and makeup, adding the white headband and Nike Cortez sneakers, Crawford writes.
The performance became a cultural moment and also rose on the Billboard charts. But Houston was also scrutinized as rumors circulated that she was lip-syncing. “That January evening I stood 12 yards from her. And she sang,” Crawford writes.
A week later, several Houston associates were discussing the speculation and Houston didn’t say anything. The singer just had a look of “I know you ain’t about to ask me,” Crawford writes. “And believe me I wasn’t. I didn’t need to. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was maddening. ‘I know you were singing,’ I said. Whitney replied, ‘I was singing my heart out.’ ”
Houston’s relationship with Eddie Murphy
Houston was romantically linked with a few fellow celebrities over the years. In the book, Crawford writes that Houston became involved with Jermaine Jackson at the start of her career, but Jackson would rebuff her. “I tried to make her feel better by saying she was worrying over the wrong Jackson,” Crawford writes. Actor Robert De Niro also pursued her, but Houston rejected his advances.
Houston, Crawford writes, was actually interested in comedian Eddie Murphy when she first met Brown, who would go on to be her husband. Murphy was hot and cold with Houston, giving her a diamond ring but not letting her into his house when she went over as a birthday surprise. Crawford believed “that Eddie did a number on Nip’s self-worth,” writing that the comedian frequently mocked her.
But Murphy seemed to have a change of heart later on. He called Houston on her wedding day as she was getting ready, Crawford writes. His message: She was making a big mistake, and shouldn’t marry Brown.
The singer’s ‘Pretty Woman’ moment
The book includes little anecdotes that serve as a window into how Houston moved about the world. She was a homebody, content to sleep quite late. She loved cereal and swimming at the beach.
In one chapter, Crawford writes that Houston’s assistant Vejar accompanied Houston to Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. Houston, who at this point was a superstar, waited at the jewelry counter while two white male employees assisted another customer, who was also white. When Vejar asked for assistance, she was told to wait, so she asked a young man at a different counter. He happily obliged, and after a few minutes recognized who he was assisting. “You’re Whitney Houston,” he said, and suddenly the two other employees wanted to help. But Vejar shot back, “Oh, now you want to come over? Before, you thought you could just ignore us because we are a Spanish girl and a black girl? Now you find out the black girl is Whitney Houston, so here you come.”
Crawford writes that “Whitney, who had been quiet up until now, asked the young man who had helped them, ‘Do you work on commission?’ He nodded and she said, ‘Go get your manager. I want to buy it from you.’ ”