Known for her soaring voice and tumultuous personal life, the world was shocked to learn pop icon Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012, the day before the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. At 3:55 p.m., the six-time winner was found face down in the tub of her room at The Beverly Hilton hotel. She was 48 years old at the time of her death.
Houston was on everyone’s mind for “music’s biggest night,” with Jennifer Hudson paying tribute with a performance of Dolly Parton’s classic, “I Will Always Love You.” Houston famously covered the song for her film, The Bodyguard.
The next night, she was expected to attend “Clive Davis and The Recording Academy’s Pre-Grammy Gala.” He had discovered her nearly two decades before, in 1983. According to her website, Davis “was taken to a New York nightclub where Whitney was performing and signed her on the spot.”
Houston Was Not the Only Singer in the Family
It seems music runs in her blood. In Newark, New Jersey, Houston was born on August 9, 1963 as the daughter of John Russell Houston Jr. and singer Emily “Cissy” Houston. Cissy herself won two Grammys for her gospel music.
She counted Darlene Love as her godmother and was also introduced to the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, as a child. Acclaimed singers Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick were her cousins.
Dee Dee was accused of molesting Houston in the 2018 documentary, Whitney. However, Cissy spoke out on behalf of the family denying claims they approved the film. Her statement to People in part read, “We cannot, however, overstate the shock and horror we feel and the difficulty we have believing that my niece Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne’s sister) molested two of my three children.”
Houston Had a Tumultuous Marriage to Bobby Brown
Houston was almost as famous for her difficult marriage to Bobby Brown as she was for her iconic music. The two met in 1989 and wed in 1992. The former couple welcomed daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown in 1993.
In 2005, they starred in Being Bobby Brown which Barry Garron reviewed for The Hollywood Reporter as “undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television.” He added, “Not only does it reveal Brown to be even more vulgar than the tabloids suggest, but it manages at the same time to rob Houston of any last shreds of dignity. She alternately shies from the camera and performs for them.”
Together the couple would frequently use drugs, with their preferred being marijuana laced with cocaine she told Oprah Winfrey in 2009.
“You’ve got to be a really nice alcoholic or a really mean one,” Houston said to Winfrey. “He was really mean. … I would become this little girl, I wouldn’t say anything.”
Houston sought treatment for her addiction in 2004, 2005 and 2011, according to People.
As ABC reported, “While Houston contended that Brown was not physically abusive, she said, ‘He slapped me once and he got hit over the head.’” Since he was on parole at the time of the alleged incident, the matter went to domestic violence court. She also claimed her husband spit on her. Brown denies having ever hit her.
The couple initially split in 2006, divorcing in 2007.
Her Drug Use Was a Factor in Her Death
Houston’s cause of death was revealed to be drowning, “due to or as a consequence of [the] effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use,” according to the LA Time’s copy of the coroner’s report.
Cocaine, Marijuana and Xanax were among the substances found in her body, according to the autopsy report. While beer bottles were located in her room, she did not have alcohol in her system.
At the time, CNN consulted Dr. Drew Pinksy who said while they cannot know the exact cause, a seizure could be likely.
“To me, a sudden drop off in the Xanax level, a drop off in your alcohol consumption, add cocaine, that’s a recipe for a seizure,” Pinsky told the outlet. “Somebody who’s now upside down in a bathtub could easily seize and drown.”
Henry Spiller, who is board certified in toxicology, also spoke with CNN and said based on the Xanax levels, a withdrawal seemed unlikely. He told the outlet a seizure was possible, but he thought it was more likely a cardiac arrhythmia.
“If you look at cocaine deaths, more deaths are from arrhythmias than seizures,” he explained to the news outlet. “Based on what is the report, it seems more likely that she had a vasospasm (which shuts off blood flow to the heart) or a fatal arrhythmia.”
It is believed she consumed cocaine shortly before her death.
Houston and her daughter are the subjects of Lifetime’s new documentary, Whitney Houston & Bobbi Kristina: Didn’t We Almost Have It All, airing tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern.