New Whitney Houston Doc Takes A Deeper Look At Addiction Battle

By David Konow 08/29/17

Houston's brothers, bodyguard, and long-time friends speak out about the legendary singer in the new documentary. 

Whitney Houston

A new documentary about Whitney Houston chronicles the legendary singer's life and tragic death, as well as her battle with addiction.

Whitney: Can I Be Me, which recently premiered on Showtime, is the latest film from director Nick Broomfield, the man behind the controversial doc Kurt & Courtney. Broomfield spoke to Rolling Stone about Houston and what he hoped to achieve with his exploration into her life.

“We’re always looking for a reason to not give people a second chance, and I think she was so harshly judged for the drug addiction," said Broomfield. "There was very little attempt to really understand where this was coming from or what it was about. I would like a lot of people to feel that there was a whole other way of looking at this.”

In the documentary, the singer's brother Gary explains how close he was with Whitney and their other brother growing up. They did everything together, he said. “When you get into drugs, you do that together, too.” Gary admitted that he first tried heroin when he was 10.

Ellin Lavar, a long-time friend and stylist for the singer, said, “When Whitney and I met, we were in our teens... It was a thing you do: Go out, party, drink, do a little drugs. Everybody did it, and her brothers gave it to her.”

Can I Be Me also contends that the people around the "I'm Every Woman" singer looked the other way when Houston’s addiction got bad. She reportedly experienced her first overdose when she was making the film Waiting to Exhale. The doc also claims that Houston allegedly had her entourage smuggle drugs into Singapore while performing overseas.

Houston's bodyguard, David Roberts, allegedly sent a comprehensive report about the "disastrous tour to Singapore" to Houston’s family, alerting them that her drug use was out of control and that she was in trouble. The family reportedly ignored the findings and Roberts was fired.

"I'm convinced now that had anyone read listened to and acted upon my report she would now be alive. As would her daughter," Roberts said.

The bodyguard added, “Everybody was on drugs... I put it down on paper. I got the telephone call and a meeting: 'Thank you very much, Ms. Houston has decided she doesn't need anyone of your caliber and experience again because she's not touring internationally in the future.' ... That was the answer to the 'do something to help her' report.”

Houston's former drug counselor Carrie Starks also spoke out in the doc: “[Whitney] wanted to be normal. She really didn’t care about fancy clothes and fancy cars... She would say to me, ‘I want to get off drugs so I can be a mother to my daughter. I want to take care of my daughter.'"

The singer passed away at the age of 48 in February of 2012. She accidentally drowned in a bathtub in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Heart disease and long-time cocaine use were later revealed to be contributing factors to her death by a coroner. 

While Houston’s family has denounced Can I Be Me. “I did genuinely fall in love with Whitney and just thought she had such an amazing talent," Broomfield told Rolling Stone.

"I think it’s a film about judgment. She was so judged. I find sometimes it’s possible to just write people off."

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.