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Real Talk: Notes From Oprah's Chat With the Houstons

Oprah sits down with the Houston family just weeks after Whitney's passing.
When I first heard Oprah would be speaking to the Houston family about Whitney’s passing, just one month ago yesterday, I was among the first to say “Oh, no! Too soon!” I was still emotionally tapped out from the shock of Whitney’s passing, the celebration at her home-going, and reading Cissy Houston’s open letter. Like Oprah finally said when Whitney’s brother Gary Houston broke down with an ugly cry at the end of the interview — which, clearly, I watched — I’d reached a point of “I can’t take any more.”  If that’s how I felt, I could only imagine what Whitney’s actual family was going through.  

But there I was last night, tuned in to OWN at 9 p.m. sharp along with seemingly half of America to watch Oprah’s Next Chapter. (The other half was watching ESPN’s “The Announcement,” a documentary on Magic Johnson’s HIV disclosure in 1991.) I felt conflicted — curious, but also guilty for being so dang nosy.

I was comforted to find a surprisingly mature Bobbi Kristina, who seemed to be doing well under the circumstances. “I’m doing as good as I possibly can at this point,” she said. “I’m just trying to keep going.”

Oprah spared Bobbi Kris, just 19 years old, the gravity of a formal sit-down interview; instead they had a casual standing chat where Krissy admitted she can’t yet listen to her mother’s records, but she does hear her mother’s voice encouraging her, saying “Keep moving, baby. I got you!” Though her aunt, Whitney’s sister-in-law Patricia Houston, hinted at discord between Krissy and Krissy’s father Bobby Brown, I was happy to see the kid had someone to lean on. Patricia stood by protectively to watch Oprah interview Bobbi Kris, and revealed that she speaks with Krissy every day.

While watching the funeral service, I’d concluded that every woman needed a man in her life like Ray the Bodyguard. He’s the type that will remember the best in you and hold you in high esteem despite seeing you at your worst. Watching OWN last night, I decided every woman needs a friend — or, as Oprah called her, a “sister-protector” — like Patricia. When things went too far between Whitney and another woman during a Grammy-week party, Pat stepped in to regulate. And at the hotel after Whitney died just days later, it was Pat who remained in the room even after EMS tried to push her out. “I could not leave her,” Pat said forcefully with tears in her eyes. She didn’t exit the room until the covers were pulled over Whitney, her best friend of 20 years.  

Before Gary left the whole audience in tears as he broke down while singing a version of Whitney’s “I Look to You,” he set the record straight on the many rumors that circulated about his family and his sister since her death. In case you were wondering: The Houston family expected Bobby at the church, and no one asked him to leave. And he doesn’t blame Bobby for his sister’s troubles or death. “I loved Bobby,” Gary said. “Bobby was a good guy.”

Oprah handled all three interviews with expected grace, asking all the questions we had all wondered about, and even a few we hadn’t thought of. And keeping it all the way classy, she appropriately side-stepped some of the juicier nuggets that Pat alluded to, but didn’t elaborate on. It was a good 90 minutes of TV that achieved its intended purpose: making us miss Oprah’s interviews, and Houston too.

What did you think of Oprah’s interview with the Houston family?

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