I was 15 and my younger sister was nine years old in 1987 when my family danced around the living room of our apartment to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

View Photo Gallery: Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were tainted by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died.

My sister placed a half-slip on top of her head to imitate Whitney’s over-sized, curly blondish weave.

I was already imagining myself as a mistress when I fell in love with “Saving All My Love for You,” a song way beyond my maturity. (But hey, it wasn’t that bad; I was a Prince fan.)

For my generation, Houston helped define the innocence of our youth — and then unveiled the sometimes ugly truth of celebrities when the music is no longer playing: Depression and addiction.

“Crack is wack” and “hell to the naw” overshadowed “I Will Always Love You” and “The Greatest Love of All.”

We laughed to stop crying. What had happened to Whitney? Model. Queen of the power ballad. Girl next door married to bad boy Bobby Brown.

When I covered politics in Newark, I got a taste of a town loving its own.

The city council would blast her incredible performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before each legislative meeting. It was surreal because they also turned a fan on the American flag to make it wave, but it was Houston’s five-octave ability that moved me.

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In recent years, every time I heard she was on an awards show, I wanted to see her in the hopes that this would be the end of the trainwreck, the comeback that would stick.

Instead, I saw her again and again as I waited in the grocery store aisle; a grim-faced Houston staring back at me from a tabloid. I’m sure those will hit stores again any minute, but right now I just want to close my eyes and listen, to the music and my memories.

Nikita Stewart is a Washington Post staff writer who covers DC Mayor Vince Gray. Follow her on Twitter at @KitaStew

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