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Real Talk: Oprah and Cissy Houston Talk Whitney, Top 5 Moments

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Oprah sits down with Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, in her New Jersey home
Photo Credit: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

I was not prepared for Oprah’s Next Chapter interview with Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston. It’s been almost a year since Whitney’s gone on to glory, and I thought I got all my tears and emotions out watching her homegoing service last February. Apparently not. Mrs. Houston, who unsurprisingly described the last year as “very difficult,” might have made it through the interview without a meltdown, but listening to her recall her last moments with her baby girl left me in tears.

Mrs. Houston — whose book about her daughter, Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss and the Night the Music Stopped, hits stores today — showed up to show out in a way nobody could have predicted. She was candid about her daughter’s drug abuse, Whitney’s rumored relationship with her best friend and executive assistant and her feelings about Bobby Brown. Back home in Washington, D.C., we would say Mrs. Houston “held no cut cards.”

“If you come here, you’re gonna get it,” she told Oprah, referring to her reaction to confrontation. That outlook was clearly enforced for this interview.

In case you missed it, let me share the Top 5 moments (in no particular order) from the interview:

1. Michael Houston, Whitney’s brother, confessed that he — not Bobby Brown — introduced Whitney to drugs.
For years, Bobby has been blamed for Whitney’s drug addiction, but as it turns out, we owe him one big apology. (Sorry, B.) Michael Houston, so close to Whitney that some folk thought they were twins, admitted he introduced his baby sis to crack — nicely called “freebasing cocaine” throughout the interview — back in the '80s. “It just happened,” said Michael. “She was famous. We were traveling on the road. We had money. We just got caught up. It’s been a battle ever since.” He added that he has not and “never will” forgive himself.

2. Mama Houston was alone when she learned of Whitney’s death.
As a testament to her strength, Cissy managed to recount the unthinkable moment of learning her only daughter was dead without breaking down. She recalled that an inconsolable Gary Houston called her one afternoon rambling and crying about “Nippy.” Mama Houston was “annoyed” that he wouldn’t get to the point. Finally, she asked, “Is she dead?”  

“Yeah, Mommy,” Gary confirmed. “She’s dead.”

“I was a wreck, just a wreck,” Mrs. Houston recounted.  (And just like that, my heart broke all over again.)

3. Mama Houston wasn’t surprised when an autopsy revealed cocaine and other drugs in Whitney’s body.
Mrs. Houston wasn’t under any delusions about her daughter’s drug use, but expected her to make a full recovery and get herself together. “That was my hope and my prayer and [Whitney] promised me that she was doing it,” she said.

4. She still isn’t sure whether Whitney had a romantic relationship with her female best friend.
Whitney was dogged by rumors that she was having an intimate relationship with her best friend, which she adamantly denied. Mama Houston wasn’t ever able to discover the truth and admitted she was no fan of Whitney’s friend. Oprah asked point-blank if the women were romantically involved, and Mama Houston stuck to her truth, saying, “I don’t really know.” She added (when asked) that she “absolutely” would have been bothered if her daughter was in a relationship with a woman, a revelation that seemed to shock Oprah.  

5. Whitney hid the emotional abuse in her marriage from her mother.
Mama Houston only learned the real deal about Whitney and Bobby’s relationship while watching Oprah’s 2009 interview with Whitney. In the interview, Whitney admitted her husband once spit on her while their daughter watched. Mrs. Houston, who admitted to Oprah that she was never a fan of Brown (and pleaded the Fifth on whether or not he was a good father), said that finding out what went on in her daughter’s marriage “hurt me to my heart... She never told me any of those things.”

What moments from Oprah’s sit-down with Cissy Houston moved you the most?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

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