The world of music has lost far too many artists at far too young an age for far too long. Whitney Houston—who died 2012 at the age 48—is among the saddest of these stories, not just because of her own death, but the tragic fate of her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, who died under stunningly similar circumstances three years later at the age of 22. Lifetime’s new two-hour documentary Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina: Didn’t We Almost Have It All offers an up-close look at how trauma and addiction can curse two generations with the same cycle of abuse.
Similar to Lifetime’s recent Surviving Jeffrey Epstein and R. Kelly specials, Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina uses first-person accounts—in this case family members, friends and godchildren—to take you inside the story with those who witnessed it. While always respectful, their stories can be quite candid. Early in the documentary, Tina Brown, Houston’s sister-in-law, chooses her words carefully before saying that Whitney’s persona was “basically a lie.”
“She didn’t want to be Whitney Houston, she just wanted to be Nip,” she says, referring to one of Whitney’s nicknames.
Randy Jackson, who worked on early Whitney Houston hits, agrees saying, “she didn’t think of herself as a pop princess.” Houston soon found a way to fill the disconnect between her self-image and the persona the public wanted her to be: Unencumbered drug abuse.
It’s here where we must pause to impress upon those too young to remember just how popular Whitney Houston was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Among the entire galaxy of pop stars, Whitney was so beloved—and her voice so sturdy—she genuinely brought our nation together during a war. It’s no wonder that someone who thought of herself as Nippy from New Jersey couldn’t handle that level of fame. No one can.
Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina does not skimp on the lurid details of Whitney’s descent into drug abuse (there’s a particularly heartbreaking section on the reaction of family and close friends moments after Houston’s body was discovered at the Beverly Hilton). However, this intimacy humanizes Whitney’s struggles in a way that a more music-focused documentary couldn’t. Laurie Starks, the drug counselor who lived with the singer when she tried to get sober is interviewed, and her grace is emblematic of the overall tone. Addiction is a disease, and diseases can resurface, and they can eventually kill you.
As sympathetic as the movie is, there is a villain to the story: Bobbi Kristina’s boyfriend Nick Gordon. Initially a family friend, Gordon eventually became involved with the much younger Krissi, as she was called. After Whitney’s death, the couple announced their engagement, but Nick was reportedly controlling and abusive throughout their relationship. The specifics around his involvement in Krissi’s death will never be known, as he too died of a drug overdose in 2020.
But in an interview with his brother, even Gordon is humanized. As much as anything, Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina is an important reminder that when it comes to substance abuse, everyone is a victim.
Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina: Didn’t We Almost Have It All premieres Saturday, Feb. 6, at 8pm ET. Use the link below to sign up for Sling Orange with Lifetime.