Whitney Houston’s former lover Robyn Crawford breaks her silence in a new memoir

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There were always rumors about Whitney Houston, no matter what Clive Davis’s PR machine did. I mean, for real: Whitney was originally portrayed as this young, wholesome, church-attending girl who developed her golden voice through gospel singing. And all of that was true. But it was also true that her first big sexual/romantic relationship was with Robyn Crawford, her best friend. Robyn and Whitney loved each other, but it was the early 1980s and people weren’t ready for it. After keeping silent about their love for decades, Robyn has written a memoir called A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston. People Mag has some excerpts:

There was no one closer to Whitney Houston than her best friend Robyn Crawford. In their years together, she was Whitney’s gatekeeper, closest confidante and most loyal protector. She was also, in the early ’80s, the singer’s romantic partner. Something she has never spoken about until now. In her powerful new memoir A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston, excerpted in this week’s PEOPLE, Crawford, 58, is finally sharing her story — and their love story.

Seven years after Whitney’s tragic death, she says, “I’d come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship. And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent.”

From the moment Crawford, then 19, first saw Whitney (then almost 17) in 1980 when they were both counselors at an East Orange, New Jersey summer camp, she told her, “I’m going to look out for you.” And that’s exactly what she did for the next two decades as Whitney became a global superstar. “We wanted to be together,” says Crawford, “and that meant just us.”

Whitney ended the physical part of their relationship early on, soon after she signed a record deal with Clive Davis at Arista. The singer broke the news by giving Crawford a gift of a slate blue Bible one day in 1982. “She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore,” writes Crawford, “because it would make our journey even more difficult. She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us,” says Crawford, “and back in the ’80s that’s how it felt.” And so, she says, “I kept it safe. I found comfort in my silence.”

There was also pressure from Whitney’s family, including her mother gospel singer Cissy Houston. “Whitney told me her mother said it wasn’t natural for two women to be that close,” says Crawford, “but we were that close.” Their closeness spawned relentless speculation about Whitney’s sexuality for many years. “We never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay,” writes Crawford. “We just lived our lives and I hoped it could go on that way forever.”

But as Crawford writes so movingly in her book, that connection was just one part of her deep and lasting bond with Houston, who struggled with drug use and died in 2012 at the age of 48. “Whitney knows I loved her and I know she loved me,” says Crawford. “We really meant everything to each other. We vowed to stand by each other.”

[From People]

Whitney signed with Astra when she was just 19 years old. She and Robyn only got to be together physically/romantically for less than two years, basically. I wonder if Whitney knew instinctively that she had to end it with Robyn, or whether Clive Davis and Cissy Houston told her to end it? I bet it was a little bit of everything. But it’s f–king cold as ice to hand your lover a copy of the Bible as a break-up gift. Still, the kids don’t know – it really was like that in the 1980s. Whitney never would have been THE Whitney Houston is she was in a romantic relationship with a woman. The establishment wouldn’t have let her live like that.

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60 Responses to “Whitney Houston’s former lover Robyn Crawford breaks her silence in a new memoir”

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  1. HK9 says:

    Whitney Huston was one of the best pop singers of the 20th century and every time I listen to her first album I realize what a talent she was. Living in a society that overshares, I was always struck by Robin’s silence all these years and I have a feeling that what she writes will be fair. Cissy Huston is somewhere having a fit but, oh well. I’m going to read this.

    • otaku fairy.... says:

      She was. My favorite is still “When you Believe” with her and Mariah Carey. It’s epic, their voices went so nicely together.

  2. Lorelei says:

    I’m a little uncomfortable about this. If Whitney didn’t want this made public while she was alive, it doesn’t seem right for someone else to decide to do it now, even if times have changed. It seems exploitative to me.

    • Jillian says:

      I agree

    • Laura says:

      It IS exploitative, all for profits (selling her book). What a terrible way to “honor” their love.

    • HK9 says:

      If you want ‘exploitative’ see Pat Huston.

    • GirlMonday says:

      Another way to look at it is that it wasn’t and isn’t just all about Whitney. Robyn and Whitney were in a life together, and Robyn sacrificed A LOT for Whitney when she was alive to protect her, care for her and be the support Whitney needed to push through every day so that Whitney could be Whitney. Had it not been for Robyn, I don’t doubt that the world would have lost Whitney way before it did. Being all that to Whitney, giving so much of herself to Whitney, and having to do that in the dark and in the closet can do damage to a person’s spirit. People sometimes write as a healing practice, and if this is how Robyn needs to surface and heal, I don’t blame her. I don’t think that just because Whitney was the one in the spotlight means that their story is exclusively Whitney’s story. Robyn was right there beside Whitney for years, and I think she has a right to tell her story too, because in many ways she facilitated Whitney’s ability to be in the spotlight at all.

      I write all this not having read the book. It could be trash, in which case I might feel differently. But I wonder if Whitney had written a memoir would we feel as protective of Robyn. I don’t know. Just trying to expand my emapthy before I judge or condemn.

      • Diana says:

        Love this response @girlmonday

      • bananapanda says:

        I agree with this. Robin has never said one word about their relationship, the marriage to Bobby Brown, the tragedy of their daughter, etc. She stayed with Whitney out of love – touring as her manager / bodyguard devotedly.

        In the (Showtime or HBO) documentary a couple years ago, it was pretty obvious that Whitney’s family would not allow this relationship. With Dionne as cousin and Cece as stage mentor, Whitney didn’t stand a chance. Long before Clive Davis entered the picture the Houston family was creating a narrative that didn’t match the reality. Whitney was doing a lot of drugs in high school, running around late at night in Newark (rough in the 80s) and living with Robin in her teen years.

      • MemphisMe says:

        Preach, honey! Whitney wasn’t the only one with a story. Robin shouldn’t have to hide HER life because Whitney was the star. I truly believe that if these two had been allowed to love like is NATURAL Whitney would be alive and so would Bobbi Kristina if she would have ever existed at all. Bobby Brown and the Houstons destroyed Whitney. This is what happens when people who aren’t completely straight are raised by Christian bigots. They are destroyed starting with their very souls. This is why I stopped going to church. I’ll worship my LOVING God who told me never to judge from my own home without the Duggar like bigots in the front pew. Disgusting. Cissy, you might as well have but a bullet in your daughter’s head. You’re a big part of the reason she turned to drugs. She had to hide from the people who were SUPPOSED to love, support, and protect her. Was Bobby Brown’s “natural” penis worth your daughter and granddaughter’s lives?

      • Anna says:

        Agreed and thank you.

    • KL says:

      Pretending that a woman coming forward about her queer relationships to discuss how her romantic life was severely impacted by a homophobic society is the same as any other posthumous sexual tell-all is, quite frankly, ignorant.

      This is Crawford’s life and experiences. Queer people, especially those of color, are hugely affected by the impression that their experiences are aberrant or not “done” by iconic and successful people. Her story has impact, and she knows it. Discretion in these communities is not the better part of valor; it literally leads to depression, substance abuse, and loss of life. You know, the things her lover suffered.

    • Lua says:

      Same. Outing someone, even when they’ve passed, is still gross.

    • holly hobby says:

      I don’t think it’s exploitative. No more than Pat’s documentary about Whitney where she basically said Whitney was molested by Dionne Warwick’s sister (rent it from the library). I really do think her life went off the rails when Robyn quit.

      As for “outing” Pat’s documentary even talked about Robyn and how Cissy didn’t like it. Sorry those rumors existed in the 80s all the way up to her latter years. No one is really surprised.

    • horseandhound says:

      I agree. I wouldn’t buy a book about a star written by a former lover, friend or whoever. those people always go out after somebody’s death and spill the beans. they always reveal some ‘dark’ secret. I think that’s unnecessary. if you wish to write, write about your life, don’t write about somebody else who also happens to be gone. I have a feeling robyn is not some freak like most of those ex boyfriends, companions and others, but I still don’t think it’s necessary to reveal their private relationship and intimacy to everybody. if whitney wanted to share, she would’ve. she obviously didn’t want to. also, what is the point of her telling people they were involved. if she just wanted to show the world what whitney was like, she could’ve written stories about their friendship. I feel like this romance thing wasn’t supposed to be common knowledge.

    • Dizzy says:

      But Robin has her story to tell. She has a right to her own truth.

  3. kerwood says:

    How much pain could have been avoided if they had been free to be who they were? So much waste.

    • minx says:

      Exactly. I feel bad for Whitney, she was such a talent and she died far too young.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed. I’ve long believed that it was this early loss and having to “play straight” that sent her into the toxic arms of Bobby Brown–I mean, what? At the time, everyone was like, what? It was such an odd choice, so manufactured and desperate, like she was going for what her isolated self thought would be the most plausible and palatable boyfriend. I just remember being so shocked and it seemed so sudden. And after that, everything derailed.

  4. Snowslow says:

    Many thoughts.
    First of all, WHY is society so keen on policing people’s sexuality?
    How sad to hide your true love from yourself for others and then give in to drugs. Poor Houston, what a tragic life.
    Also, why sacrifice one’s life to celebrity and appreciation rather than live a real life? Sooooo effing sad.
    And finally, would Robyn write this book if Houston wasn’t as big as she was? Isn’t this a bit unfair to a person who isn’t here anymore?

    • Diana says:

      I agree with you and @bekind

      Such a devastating tragedy. So sad that she was never able to be her authentic self.

  5. bekindbekindbekind says:

    I’ve always believed Whitney’s problems and addictions were exacerbated by her inability to just “be.”

    Yup, that’s the way it was. There was no debate, no fighting it. I’m sure her reps, Clive Davis, her family all made it clear “this” was not acceptable.

    And by suffocating her soul, it helped destroy their golden goose.

    • Tourmaline says:

      I agree, so many factors, her family was a huge one definitely. I was just a kid in her heyday but remembering those times there was no way someone could be an openly gay pop princess in the 1980s, especially not as an African-American. Heck even when Melissa Etheridge came out in the mid-1990s, that was a huge deal for the music industry.
      What happened to Whitney and her daughter is like some kind of greek tragedy level stuff

    • Anna says:

      Yup. x1000000

  6. Jay (the Canadian one) says:

    Not religious, but I always find those citing the bible about women being romantically involved curious, since the bible says nothing about women being with women, only men being with men. The bible tended not to acknowledge the agency of women in any respect.

    • KL says:

      True, but I find most people who use the Bible as a weapon to shame and corral others haven’t actually sat down and read it, cover to cover. It’s just a symbol of a community’s unquestioned prejudices.

    • s says:

      there are plenty heroines and active women in the bible. Harold bloom wrote a great book suggesting a woman is one of the main authors as well (the book of J) its the interpretation of the church that is the problem.

  7. Dorothy says:

    This makes me so mad inside they killed her and how many like her before? I never heard these rumors but I was an early 80s church girl
    Too I loved her

  8. Sumodo1 says:

    I loved the Whitney they gave us but I think I would have loved the real Whitney even more.

  9. Well-Wisher says:

    I hope Ms. Houston get the accolades due to her work. The only thing that was perfect was her voice because she is human.

  10. Christina says:

    I agree with GirlMonday and BeKind.

    Robyn and Whitney had a long friendship and love. It was theirs. Regardless of whether or not Whitney was dead or alive, it’s Robyn’s story to tell. She kept the secret for Whitney, but Whitney’s gone.

    I think that she had the right to tell her story while Whitney was alive, but she didn’t because she didn’t want it to affect Whitney’s life. That’s love and friendship, but people always want to say, “keep the secret. Don’t tell. It’s bad to talk.” When two people share ANY experience, it is each person’s right as an individual to share their perspective or not. When we police that, it’s how abusers get away with so much. Whitney loved Robyn, and they were close, so Whitney didn’t do anything to Robyn to cause her to be disloyal and vice versa. Now that Whitney has passed away, Robyn can share her story, which shows that they really did love each other so much that they sacrificed everything for Whitney’s talent to shine. This also sets the record straight about how things were for LGBTQ people at the time, and it puts a nail in the coffin of Cissy and John’s crap.

    I have friends who knew she was gay when she first broke out. They went to Howard and know folks who’d gone to HS with Whitney, and they knew that Cissy didn’t want her to come out. Lots of us knew a looooong time ago, and we loved her.

  11. Sassbr says:

    If you want to see more of Robyn and Whitney’s relationship, check out the documentary Can I Be Me-it’s the doc that came out before they Houston family-sanctioned one and MUCH better. It primarily uses footage from her last successful tour (My Love is Your Love) and she is about to lose everything-she had OD’d the year before while filming The Preacher’s Wife, she is painfully thin, and she losing her voice. Robyn is on that tour with her. She ends their friendship right after due to the drug use. She may have only been her lover for two years but she babysat her for another 17.

    • Christina says:

      Sassbr, that documentary is footage of Whitney and Bobby as Robyn as they were. You can see Robyn’s pain.

      When it came out, this was the stuff a bunch of people knew about, but not the general public.

  12. Lala11_7 says:

    Robyn’s story has been told by others in the public forum…and THAT is where she should go to RECLAIM HER STORY! It is her’s…she LOVED WHITNEY…Whitney didn’t start falling ALL THE WAY APART UNTIL AFTER ROBYN LEFT…I want that Queer Black Woman to tell about the love that she had for Whitney…a SHARED LOVE THAT REFLECTED IN WHITNEY’S SONGS…a SHARED LOVE THAT REFLECTED IN WHITNEY’S EYES WHEN YOU SEE FILM OF THEM TOGETHER!

    Whitney’s life will ALWAYS break my heart…her truth DESERVES to be heard and seen…and when it comes to Whitney…I will ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT ROBYN IS HER TRUTH!

  13. Lisabella says:

    IMO Whitney was the Greatest singer. Robyn TRULY LOVED HER, NOT her Family, Queer Clive or most of all Bobby Brown. Whitney was a Ca$h Cow to everyone BUT ROBYN.

  14. J ferber says:

    This breaks my heart. If Whitney had only stayed with her girlfriend, and not married Bobby brown,, i think she would have been alive today.

  15. Shiba says:

    Preach.

    This is a true love story. Robin stood by Whitney, literally. In whatever way she could, as Whitney’s life evolved and devolved. She was her lover, physical protector, completely trustworthy companion backstage and in life. She retained her integrity and respect for Whitney’s essence. Robyn is the ONE person who can write truthfully about Whitney and honor her, while doing so.
    Proud to be alive in a time where this book can be given it’s due respect and appreciation.

  16. adastraperaspera says:

    Having this finally publicly confirmed by Robyn makes me ache inside… I had my first love in 1981, and coming out as lesbian then forever severed connections to countless friends and family members and career opportunities. So much lost I could never quantify it, but at least I had the opportunity to move away from home and to the cities where space had been carved out by gays who came before me. But I was not famous. I cannot imagine the pressure Robyn and Whitney were put under due to her success–which became a cash cow for her family, let’s be honest. It’s tragic. The grinding force of homophobia twists and crushes hopes, dreams, plans. So wrong. I feel like I can finally grieve Whitney’s death now, as a long-time fan.

    • Lorelei says:

      I am so sorry to hear this. I can’t imagine ostracizing someone I cared about over this. I know it was a different time, but still so disappointing that people would do that.
      I’m very sorry you went through it but it’s great to hear that you were still able to create a happy life for yourself.

    • Christina says:

      Sending you hugs. I’m so sorry about all that you lost to be the real you.

  17. Patrizio says:

    Can’t help but feel if it were me- I would go to my grave with the relationship details.

  18. Jane Doe says:

    I have no doubt that Whitney’s substance use was impacted by her narcissistic family. They all benefited financially from her lucrative career and the jobs she provided for them, to her detriment. Also familial homophobia – well it kills your soul / spirit. I cannot imagine what Robyn went through during their relationship, long friendship and after her death. Closeting and homophobia mean that often people ignore, minimize or don’t recognize your losses and grief.

    • Patrizio says:

      Well, I’m sure the money will help Robyn feel better. As far as I’m concerned she’s just as bad as the family.

      • Jane Does says:

        I think Robyn was a victim of homophobia too. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to grieve a love other’s refused to acknowledge. I think she has a right to tell her story. Hopefully she does in a way that isn’t exploitative.

  19. The Recluse says:

    Tragic. One wonders whether Whitney’s life might have run a different course if she had not been obliged to give up Robyn. We’ll never know.

  20. No Doubt says:

    IMO Whitney is the greatest singer of all time. Unfortunately, she ruined that beautiful gift and had a tragic life. I always rooted for her though. I wonder what might of been if she hadn’t been controlled by her record label and family. She was a lost soul.

  21. eliza james says:

    This is bullshit. There are plenty of people who knew about Whitney and are refusing to exploit her for money. What a horrible deception by this woman who is clearly trying to make a buck. Shameful.