I never knew watching Whitney Houston on TV gliding across the Apollo stage in a white sequined dress and tendril-shaped earrings I would get my first lesson in confidence and self-worth. Of course, at eight years old all I really cared about was stealing her hairdo so I could impress my friends at school. But as I got older I realized just how much the lyrics of “Greatest Love of All” had on my life. Specifically, my teenage years when I desperately tried to break away from my older sister’s shadow leading me to bellow that one lyric: “I DECIDED LONG AGO/ NEVER TO WALK IN ANYONE’S SHADOWS…” into my hair brush like no one’s business. Like many of Houston’s songs it echoed through my heart and spirit whenever I doubted myself.
Houston’s belief that “children are the future and we need to give them a sense of pride…” were the building blocks for her non-profit The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children Inc., established in 1989. The foundation was a safe haven for kids struggling with AIDS, cancer and self-empowerment. The WHFC also coordinated an annual toy drive for homeless children during the holiday season.
Despite the revocation of the foundation’s status as a non-profit by the IRS in 2010, (due to failure to file necessary paperwork for three years) Houston still managed to align herself with charities related to children’s needs such as The Patricia Houston Foundation. In 2011, Houston teamed up with her sister-in-law and manager Patricia Houston to create a line of scented candles called Marion P, of which, a portion of the proceeds will go towards Teen Summit, a teen mentoring program that Patricia founded through her organization. Each candle box has an “Inspired by Whitney Houston” inscription that showcases the icon’s endorsement.
Just as the singer’s name is attached to the New Jersey performing arts school that teaches elementary and middle school students “through the uses of artistic and creative expressions as primary motivational tools.” The family requested donations to the Whitney Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in lieu of flowers.
Ms. Houston’s was a walking inspiration for countless people and the lesson she taught me with that one song will continue to foster my self-esteem. I just wish she heeded the song’s message as closely as I did.
Whitney Houston Official Web site
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