This month we pay special tribute to singer Whitney Houston, choosing, amid our sadness at her passing on the eve of the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, to celebrate all that was special and glorious about her. I met the singer only once, in 1999 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala, a major red-carpet event in New York City. It was the first time the gala had seen so many Black folks. Whitney was there with her husband, singer Bobby Brown. Along with stars like Sean “Puffy” Combs, they helped to integrate the evening.

As I recall, most of the Black people sat to one side near the front of the great hall. When Puffy took the stage surrounded by six female dancers, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, seated near the proscenium, had no idea who Puffy was. But he was mesmerized. According to reports in Women’s Wear Daily, he turned to his tablemates and said, “Who is Fluffy?”

Everyone was having fun that night. No one more than Whitney. She was stunning in pristine white and jet black. When the dinner was over, we stayed to party some more. Bobby, dressed in matching whites, moved from table to table, working the room, greeting, laughing and chatting people up. Not to be outdone, Whitney climbed onto their table and started dancing. She called Bobby to come over and join her fun. He didn’t. He sent her a smile instead. And she didn’t seem to care. Dancing on the table in her glamorous evening wear, she was radiant and gorgeous. She looked happy. That is how I choose to remember her.

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