Many consider the death of an icon as significant as a natural or national disaster. At the top of my list are 9/11 and the Japanese tragedy where countless lives were reduced to rubble in a devastating earthquake.
But the loss of an inspirational star’s life has its own, equally profound effect, because it hits us in an altogether different, more personally resonant place. When we lose an icon, we lose a sense of the dreams we all want to hold onto and a glimpse of the magic that we believe in. Even if our dreams don’t come true as they do for the luminaries we revere, stars are symbols that a dream is worth trying for no matter who you are, or where you come from.
The last time I felt this way was on August 31, 1997, when the beloved Princess Diana was taken in a fatal car crash. Whomever has envisioned living an enchanted life, becoming a Princess or at least has felt they had the potential to be as poised, confident, and loving, Princess Di served as the living embodiment of these kinds of dreams for every young girl and I dare say, most women. We felt a connection to her because of what she represented and mirrored for each of us.
It is apropos that on Grammy night, I mourn another light that has been too soon extinguished from Earth, only this light was connected to a heaven sent voice; that of church inspired singer, Whitney Houston. She is added to the list of those I have admired, celebrated, respected and honored who have passed.
But Whitney’s death leaves a particularly pronounced hole in my heart, an unwavering sadness and a list of unanswered questions.
Why didn’t she get help? Why was ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’ the last song she sang? Why should she die the night of her music-mogul-mentor Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party?
The hazy details surrounding Whitney Houston’s death are nothing, if not poetically tragic, the scenario carrying all the potential makings for a true-life inspired HBO special which I am sure we will be seeing soon.
The questions rise as do thoughts of our own mortality. But when the star’s presence was responsible for shining a light into the dreams of our own souls, then it is possible that some good can come of an otherwise senseless tragedy.
Whitney Houston’s death prompts me to take stock of where I am in the process of achieving my dreams, and to remember where they began. And unlike the lessons, if there are any, behind Whitney and other tragically early losses like those of John Lennon, Lady Di and Michael Jackson, I have the opportunity to appreciate how I can be successful in whatever form it will look like, not trapped in the muck and mire of secret pain, addiction and overwhelming sadness.
Instead, in this moment, when I think of Whitney Houston I remember all the potential I felt I had as a young singer. In fact, she was the motivation behind my first on-camera demo. As a perky UCLA sophomore, I stepped into a karaoke-video studio in Westwood, California, where I bounced and belted along to the background track of Whitney’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Yes, my hair resembled Whitney’s late ‘80s ‘do, but thankfully I have lost that videotape so no visible proof of my poodle inspired fiasco will be posted anytime soon on my DivaMamaTV YouTube channel.
Even thinking of that neophyte performance makes me smile through my tears and maybe that’s why we love our icons so much. They awaken our old dreams, instill a passion and serve as inspiration.
So I choose to see this sad situation as a wake up call to reconsider my own career aspirations, and to serve as an opportunity to make my life something worth remembering.
I wish you peace Whitney, and offer my gratitude to you for reminding me where I came from and just how important using my voice is to me.