Whitney Houston's Life in Pictures

The entertainment world lost one of its brightest stars on February 11, 2012, when the incomparable Whitney Houston, just 48 years old and poised to enter the spotlight again in the movie Sparkle, died suddenly in Los Angeles. Here, ESSENCE pays tribute to a talent gone too soon — a groundbreaker whose beauty, ambition, and golden voice inspired Black women across generations.

ESSENCE.COM Feb, 11, 2012

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The gifted singer debuted with a self-titled album in March 1985. The record had a string of hits including three consecutive No. 1 singles: the Grammy-winning “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” and “The Greatest Love of All.”

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Whitney Houston poses at the Soul Train Awards in Los Angeles, March 23, 1987.

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Whitney Houston and her mother Cissy Houston appear during a taping of an MTV show in 1989 in New York City.

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Houston laughs beside Stevie Wonder at the 13th Annual American Music Awards on January 27, 1986, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

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In 1985, Whitney Houston flashes her first Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance for “Saving All My Love for You.”

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Newlyweds Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown smile during their 1992 wedding. The pair had their first and only child, Bobbi Kristina, the next year. They divorced in 2009.

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Houston and Brown attend a movie premiere.

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Houston performed a memorable rendition of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.

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Whitney Houston with Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in Waiting to Exhale.

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Clive Davis first saw Houston perform at a New York nightclub in the ’80s, and he signed her on the spot. Over the years he continued his role as her mentor; on the day of her death she was due to appear at his annual pre-Grammys gala.

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Houston made history as the first female artist to enter the Billboard album charts at No. 1.

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The gifted singer shares the stage with Mariah Carey in 1998, after they won a Grammy for their hit song “When You Believe,” from the Disney movie The Prince of Egypt.

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At the 42nd annual Grammy Awards in February 2000, Whitney received her sixth career Grammy: “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” was voted Best Female R&B Vocal.

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In 1990, the title track to “I’m Your Baby Tonight” topped the pop and R&B charts, as did “All the Man That I Need.” Her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” in 1992 remained at the top of the Billboard chart for 14 weeks.

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Another career highlight: Houston’s cover of Chaka Khan’s 1978 hit “I’m Every Woman,” which climbed to No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

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Whitney Houston sits down with Diane Sawyer for a revealing one-hour interview at her home in suburban Atlanta.

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The Guinness Book of World Records lists Whitney as music’s “Most Awarded Female Artist of All Time,” as of 2006.

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Whitney Houston was also successful on the silver screen. In 1996, Houston starred with Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance in the comedy The Preacher’s Wife. She also played the Fairy Godmother to Brandy’s Cinderella in a Wonderful World of Disney movie in 1997.

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Whitney Houston performs during a German game show in Freiburg, southwestern Germany.

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She appeared on the NBC television network special benefit concert “25 Years of #1 Hits: Arista Records’ Anniversary Celebration,” a tribute to the label as well as its founder and leader, Clive Davis.

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Houston had many friends and fans in Hollywood; here, she’s photographed with Halle Berry. Hip-hop personalities and producers including Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Rodney Jerkins, Missy Elliott, and Faith Evans all collaborated with the vocalist on various tracks.

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Whitney Houston performs with her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, during ABC’s Good Morning America on September 1, 2009, in New York City.

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The legendary diva receives a warm welcome on Good Morning America, September 2009. She released her comeback album I Look To You that same month. It debuted at No. 1, selling 304,000 copies — the biggest first-week sales of her career.

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Whitney Houston stops by the popular show Dancing With the Stars to perform her single “Million Dollar Bill.”

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Whitney Houston made a fabulous appearance at the 2009 BET Honors ceremony. Simply beautiful.

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Whitney looks stunning in blue at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, 2009.

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Clive Davis and Whitney Houston share the love onstage at the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Houston passed away exactly one year later.

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Whitney Houston and her cousin Dionne Warwick perform onstage during Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammys Gala in 2011.

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Whitney Houston arrives with daughter Bobbi Kristina at 2011’s Clive Davis Pre-Grammys Gala.

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Whitney’s legacy: Bobbi Kristina Brown arrives at a Grammys party just two days before her mother’s death. Sadly, Houston's precious little girl died tragically on July 26, 2015, at the age of 22, when she succumbed to injuries she sustained after being found unresponsive in her bathtub in early January of that year.

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Whitney Houston arrives at a Grammys Week party in Hollywood on February 9, 2012. This was her last public appearance.

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Clive Davis and Whitney Houston at the 2009 GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons honoring Clive Davis at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.