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by Yvette Carnell

I’m not a defender of Bobby Brown. To the contrary, I’ve written derisively about his narcissism and excesses quite thoroughly in a previous piece. Bobby couldn’t manage Being Bobby Brown, so Lord knows he couldn’t manage being the rock for a star that shined as bright as Houston’s. Problem is, that’s what Whitney required. Looking back, it’s easy to understand why Houston chose Brown and what her expectations were. It’s also just as easy to understand why she thought she needed a man like Brown, what she was running away from, and what she thought she was running to.

In order to better understand Whitney’s journey, it may be beneficial to look at a star with a similar background, to fully understand how the two stories diverged. Much like Houston, Mariah Carey was also molded by a white and much older music mogul. Tommy Mottola was to Mariah Carey what Clive Davis was to Whitney Houston.

Carey spoke candidly about how controlling Mottola was during their marriage in a 2007 interview: “I have to forgive him for being so restrictive. I understand him not wanting me to go out and hang out all night, but going to a spa with friends every now and then, or doing things on my own would have made a world of difference.” One could even go so far as to speculate that Mottola married Carey as a way of taking full control over both her personal and professional life.

And one of the aspects of Carey’s personal and professional life that Mottolla kept a strong grip on was her connection to the black community. We all remember the ambiguousness that surrounded Carey’s race during the Mottola years; the videos shot in black in white, the white male love interests in her videos, Carey’s refusal to full throatedly address the issue of her race. We also remember how, after her divorce, Carey made a bee line into the arms of black culture and, eventually, Nick Cannon.

And since then, Nick Cannon has been Mariah’s biggest defender and protector. When rapper Eminem, who makes a living off being a nasty little critter, decided to spread rumors that he and Mariah had had a fling, it was Cannon who said, “I thought we got past the days where white men could spew vulgar obscenities at our beautiful queens and get away with it.”

Just as Carey would run into the arms of Nick Cannon, Houston took refuge with the bad boy of R&B, who appeared, at least from an outsider’s view, not to have allowed himself to be pushed around by anyone, not his New Edition band mates, not the media, not even producers who thought his bad boy image was over the top. This was the guy Whitney thought she was getting. He’s the man who she changed the name of her production company to Brown House Productions for.

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