Whitney Houston on Divorce
It's been seven years since the world heard music icon Whitney Houston's voice. Now, she's back—and talking only to Oprah about the private struggles she tried to hide from public view. In Part 1 of their interview, Whitney opened up about her marriage to R&B star Bobby Brown, her drug abuse and why she retreated from the spotlight. Here, in the conclusion of their interview, Whitney opens up about the day she left Bobby Brown, the death of Michael Jackson and her new album.
Whitney: I just knew I had to get to the point where I had to make a choice [about my marriage]. I just remember praying, "If you give me one day of strength, I will go out that door and I will not look back." And that one day came. And I left. I remember I said, "I'm going out for some sugar and some milk and I'll be back."

Oprah: Did you know that was the day?

Whitney: I knew it. I never came back. And I went to L.A. ... The furniture started leaving, I started selling the house, put the house on the market, cars, everything. I just got rid of everything.

Oprah: After or before then?

Whitney: After. After I left, and I was at a friend's house. He would not come and bother me if I was at a certain person's house, a friend of mine's, he would not come there. Because she was like: "If you come over here, I'm just going to shoot you. Just don't bother her. Leave her alone. She's got to make some choices in her life."


Oprah: So about what year was this?

Whitney: Around 2006. I just got on a plane. I had two pairs of pants, some sneakers, probably a couple pairs of underwear, put it in my little doggie bag, a friend of mine got on the plane with me.

Oprah: Was part of the decision what you wanted versus what the public perceived?

Whitney: At that point, I didn't care.

Oprah: You were no longer trying to fight for the image of the public?

Whitney: I wasn't. Because I wasn't going to be in an unholy matrimony. I wasn't going to be living with a man who decided that he didn't want to live the same way I did or thought about marriage or me the same way. Being loyal. Being dedicated. Being true. Being faithful. All those things. I wasn't going to live with someone like that. I wasn't.

And he was doing all the opposite. And I wanted to stop at that point. I mean, the drugs, the whole thing. I wanted it all just to stop. And he just wanted to continue. By that time, the evil, the enemy just wanted to let itself in and take over, and I wanted it out. And I was praying hard. I was praying very hard. And my mother, being the warrior that she is, she stepped in and said, "Let it go. Let it go. Just let it go."

Oprah: What had she been saying all this time? Did she realize how tumultuous this relationship was? Or were you putting up the facade with her too?

Whitney: I can't play her. ... Cissy comes in and she goes: "I don't care what you say. I know my child. I'm looking in your eyes, and I know you're not happy. And if you don't get out of this, something is going to happen. I'm not giving you up." 

Whitney Houston on Bobbi Kristina
Oprah: Where was Bobbi Kristina in all of that craziness?

Whitney: I got her out of the house earlier than I had left. I placed her with my brother, Gary, and my sister-in-law, Pat, who lived five minutes down the street from me, because it was getting to be a little much. They took care of her for fifth and sixth grade while she went to school. While I just tried to get it all together and say: "What was I going to do? Where was I going to go? How was I going to do this? How was I going to get out of this?" And once I made some moves, I took her with me to California, and we lived there for a year and a half.

Oprah: So were you separated from Bobby Brown for a time when we didn't even know it?

Whitney: Yeah. I left, but nobody really knew.

Oprah: Do you feel that even doing that—taking her out of the house—that she saw too much? She heard too much? Experienced too much?

Whitney: It was enough. She saw enough. The spitting in the face was enough. She said: "Mom, did he spit in your face?" And I looked in her eyes and she looked in mine and I said: "Yes. But it's all right." And she said: "No, it's not. No, it's not. It's not, Mom. It's not all right." I said: "If you can do me a favor. Just do this for Mommy. I'm going to put my trust in God. You put your trust in me. You may not understand it now, but just trust me. I'm not letting you go. I will hold on to you with my dear life. Just trust me. And we will get up out of this. And we'll be happier for it. And then as you get older, I'll tell you little by little as to why things are happening and why Mommy has to go."

But we got to California and she was very angry. Did not understand. She fought me. But I kept coming back with love. I kept holding her in my arms. I kept knocking on that door and I kept getting on my knees. I kept praying. Telling her I loved her.

And then I waited for him. I did. I waited for him to come back to say all the stuff that he was doing—and he was doing a lot of ugly things outside the marriage. I just kept thinking: "He's dragging this into my home and my daughter. I can't have this. I can't let her think that this is love, or this is the way it should be."

Oprah: You were still, even after moving to California, hoping that you could get back together?

Whitney: Yeah, I waited. 
Oprah: What finally made you decide, "I'm out of this marriage"? You've gone to California. You waited.

Whitney: I waited. I went to California. I got me a little home there in Laguna. Some friends of mine got a plane for me. Flew me there out in a private jet. I got with a counselor. ...

And after a couple of months, he would say he was coming, and he never came, and my only concern was my daughter and her perception of her father. And me trying to tell her the truth about that was very difficult because she was just a kid—13 growing into being a young woman. So I gave her bits and pieces. But that Internet and that computer, man, tells you and lets you know, and she was, like, "Mom, this is Dad?" And I was, like, "Yeah. Okay." And she saw him with the—

Oprah: Other women.

Whitney: Thank you. Just crazy things, you know? And she said, "Oh, no." She said, "No, divorce him."

Oprah: Your daughter said.

Whitney: Let him go. "Mom," she said. "I see how you are. You stay here with me. You love me. You take me to school. You do things with me. You don't disappoint me. You don't lie to me. You're there for me. He tells me he's coming, and he never comes. He tells me he's going to give me things, he never brings them." She says, "You don't deserve that, and neither do I." She was far more intelligent than I could ever imagine.

Whitney Houston and Oprah
Oprah: If your daughter hadn't said that, do you think you would have stayed? You'd still be struggling with it? Or was that a turning moment for you?

Whitney: My spirit wouldn't let me. The spirit of God is stronger than any spirit that you can ever have. And at some point, it helps you to make a decision. I had my sister-in-law who was praying for me. ... My brothers were there for me. You know, my family. I had members that had stood by me. ...

And then there was Clive who said, "I don't believe it's over." He said: "No way. God didn't give you gifts like that and say it's over. It can't end like this. It can't go like this." He said, "Plus, I still got some more left in me." And I thought, "Wow." He said: "I'm going to give you a year and you make a decision. But the world's waiting, and they want to hear you again."

I'd go to the grocery store, and people would say: "When are you coming out with another record? I want to hear your song. I want to hear you sing again." I felt the warmth of people. Of the mothers saying, "Now that's who I used to listen to when I was growing up."

Bobbi Kristina
Oprah: How is Bobbi Kristina now?

Whitney: She's good. I don't know how to describe her. She's more and more like me every day.

Oprah: She's starting to actually look more like you.

Whitney: She does. When she was a kid, she was looking so much like her father—her body frame, her face, her skin.

Oprah: You can see yourself in her?

Whitney: Oh, all over her. She writes creatively all the time. She writes. And she sings. She's really starting to sing really well now.

Oprah: Is she good?

Whitney: Yeah, she is. I want her to take her time. I don't want anybody to touch her. I want to groom her.

Oprah: So if she chooses to be in this business, that's okay with you?

Whitney: Yeah, but I will be there. Like my mom was there with me. When I was just getting in the business, and they came for me when I was 14 and wanted to sign me, my mother said: "No way. Whitney's got a lot more to learn."

Oprah: Are you enjoying being a mother?

Whitney: I love it. I love being a mother and watching her become a woman. There are times where she's going through that young womanhood where there's the boys, and there are little things and you got her little feelings being hurt. I love her to come to me, and she trusts me. She trusts me and I can tell her the truth and say: "Listen. It's going to happen, but we're going to get through it. We're going to make it." That kind of thing. I love that.

She's proud of me. And I'm proud of her. She got into bed with me this morning and she said: "Mama, can I just tell you how much I love you and how proud I am of you? You're record's kicking tail all over the world. I just proud of you. We did it, Mom. We did it."
Whitney Houston shares who she loves.
Oprah: Who do you love?

Whitney: The Lord. I do. I'm so humbled and so thankful. By his grace, his goodness. And for never giving up on me. I love my mother. My daughter. My relatives. My sisters. My brothers. I love you. Because I knew somewhere in the background you were there praying too. 

Oprah: I was, I was.

Whitney: And as horrible as they tried to make it to be. It was just life's experiences. I'd never been through anything as heavy. I had a good childhood. I had a good mom. Had a great dad. My father passed away, and I loved him so dearly. And that put a real dent in everything because that's when it really started getting crazy—my dad passed away. And my husband really started acting up. Acting out. Then, when my dad left, he really started acting out. I guess he figured, '"He's gone now."

Oprah: You don't have your dad.

Whitney: Yeah. But I had my mother.

Oprah: But your dad suing you, that had to be hard.

Whitney: Well, my dad was influenced by people that were lying. My father was sickly at the time. He was in the hospital. I was paying the bill. I took care of my father.

Oprah: So you forgave him?

Whitney: Absolutely.

Oprah: In the end, you forgave him.

Whitney: Absolutely. I love my dad. I knew he was sickly. My father was in his 80s at that point, and he was in the hospital constantly with heart problems and diabetes. And people were trying to get money from him, extract money from him. Blackmail him.

Oprah: At the time, it was painful, was it not?

Whitney: It was very. It was a period of a couple of years when we didn't speak at all. But when he got sickly, really sickly, I went to the hospital and I said: "Let's end this right now. But you're my father. I love you. I'm going to be here in the end. I'm going to be here, and I'm going to be the one who's going to take care of you." And finally, when it all kind of came down, and it all was the end, everything was in my hands.

Oprah: I heard you chose not to go to the funeral but spent private time with him?

Whitney: I had a memorial the day before the funeral that was my own. That was my own. That was just my family for me, Dionne, my cousin DeeDee, my mother, my family. There was so much press. So many media. The media was following me around. I couldn't grieve in privacy. So I had my own service. And then my father was a very influential man in city of Newark, New Jersey, so he had a lot of friends, so I had one for them that they could go to. But I had my own.
Michael Houston
Photo: AP/Wide World Photos
Oprah: How difficult was Michael Jackson's passing for you?

Whitney: Devastating. I have so many good memories of spending time with him. I've known his family for so many years. For at least 20. I thought: "This can't be true. This can't be true." I knew he was on painkillers at one time. I didn't know how far and how deep it was. I just remember doing the anniversary special, the 30th anniversary, and I remember looking at Michael and I remember looking at myself.

Oprah: That's when you were so bone thin. You were frail.

Whitney: I was, yeah. I was getting scared.

Oprah: Looking at him?

Whitney: Yeah, and then looking at myself going: '"No, I don't want this to be like this. This can't happen. Not both of us." ...

Oprah: You were doing your own drugs at the time, right? That's why you were so thin, right? 

Whitney: Yeah, but there were things that were happening emotionally to me. I was worried.

Oprah: For him?

Whitney: Yeah. I was worried for me. There was the marriage thing. A lot of things that were going on. Mike and I were very close. 

Oprah: When was the last time you saw him?

Whitney: I think it was that time when I spoke to him during the trial a lot. By that time, he had cut a lot of people off. He didn't want to be seen.

Oprah: Did he cut you off?

Whitney: He'd speak to me on the phone, but he didn't want me to see him. No one have I ever met quite like that young man. And to have it end like that? Saddens me.
Oprah: Was there ever a time when you thought you wouldn't come out of [drug addiction]? That you thought that: "All right, this is the way it's going to be. I'm going to be in this room smoking my weed laced with cocaine, watching TV? ...

Whitney: You know what? For some reason, Oprah, I never got to that point. Something always had a fight in me.


Oprah: What did you learn? What is the most you've learned through this entire process of sitting there with the drugs, of the evil eyes on the wall?

Whitney: It was difficult because he wouldn't let me go. He did not want me to leave.

Oprah: And you didn't think you had the strength to leave on your own. And that's why you prayed to God for just one day.

Whitney: "Just one day give me the strength and I'll go. Just one day. Because I can't live like this anymore. I'm not going to share him with this one and that one. I'm not doing that. He's not going to drag this into my home, and I'm not going to let my daughter think that that's love."

Oprah: Why did you think you couldn't leave without that prayer? What was holding you there?

Whitney: Habit. Conforming to a way of life. Thinking that it's all right, that it will get better.


Oprah: So does that mean you're drug-free?

Whitney: Yes, ma'am. Don't think I don't have desires for it. There are times it takes a minute to cleanse, get off. Get off me. Just leave me alone. Get off me. I have to pray it away. I'll have a drink every now and then. Don't get me wrong. If you see me at a bar, having a drink, don't think...

Oprah: Don't say she's gone back.

Whitney: No, please don't do that to me.

Oprah: Cause drinking was not your issue.

Whitney: No. That's not an issue for me. No weed. No coke. No.

Oprah: Do you think you ever will again? Be tempted?

Whitney: Oprah, I can only take today. One day at a time. Right now, no.

Whitney Houston's I Look to You
Oprah: So now we stand here with I Look to You. All these many years later. I was listening to that cut this morning, "I Look to You," and meditating. When you first recorded that song, who were you singing that to? When you're saying, "I look to you."

Whitney: Let me first say that the song was written by Robert Kelly, who we all know as R. Kelly, 10 years ago for me. ... It was the first song presented to me for the album, and I wanted that to be the flavor of what I wanted people to know about me and where I look to. How I got over, how I made it through some of the rough times.

Oprah: So you're talking about something greater than yourself.

Whitney: Greater than me. Far greater than me. Absolutely. Somebody bigger than you and I.

Oprah: And that's why you titled the album I Look to You, because that is the essence.

Whitney: Yes. That is the essence of what I wanted everyone to realize and to feel that this song—this album—is all about.

Oprah: Well, you know my favorite cut on this album. ... Diane Warren and David Foster's ["I Didn't Know My Own Strength"]. Did the song that seemed to come from really the essence of part of your experience?

Whitney: Yes. ... When I think about it now when I sing it, when I started singing it, it went even beyond myself. I went beyond myself because I thought about women who battle cancer. Women who battle bad, domestic situations. I thought about single parents, mothers and fathers. Children who are growing up under such strenuous situations. Not only mine. I went deep down into another place of other people's situations, and I was like, "This is for everybody." 

Watch Whitney perform "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" Watch


Oprah: When I listened to the second cut on the CD about Nothin' But Love, I think that's what people have for you. Are you feeling that love now?

Whitney: Yeah, but mostly for myself. That's the great part. That's the good feeling. I have it for me.

Whitney Houston and Oprah
Oprah: So much seems to be riding on this moment. Do you think of this as a comeback? Is this a comeback? Or a come out or a come-through?

Whitney: A come-through. It's a come-through moment. There's a song on there, R. Kelly wrote it: "Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years." 


Oprah: Do you now know your own strength?

Whitney: I know from whence my help cometh. I do know that. And I know that it's strong within me. If ever I get low, I get weak, I know where I can turn to. I love the spirit of God so much that I'm not willing to trade that for anything. I'm not trading that for nothing. For nothing. Because I feel joy that I can't even speak about. And peace that passes all understanding.

Oprah: Because I know you can't get through this without God.

Whitney: I was by myself so much during those years in L.A., and I would just sit and I would read the word and I would stop and I would think, "What do you want me to know?" The Holy Spirit would speak to me and it would guide me. And I wouldn't know how I would get to this place or that place. Or how I did this or how I was go into the studio and sing again. But I did it.

More with Whitney Houston


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