The intimate, romantic relationship between Whitney Houston and her longtime friend and former assistant Robyn Crawford is at the heart of Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, the new biopic about the singer that recently began streaming on Netflix. But is that detail true to Houston’s life, or is it dramatized for the movie?
The answer is, yes — Houston and Crawford really did have a romantic relationship in real life.
Here’s What Robyn Crawford Has Said About Her Relationship With Whitney Houston
“Our friendship was intimate on all levels,” Crawford told The Guardian.
In the biopic, Houston (Naomi Ackie) and Crawford (Nafessa Williams) are shown kissing and embracing. But then Houston’s father tells her that he only wants her to be seen in public dating men. The film shows the two women side-by-side throughout many parts of Houston’s life — even at her wedding to Bobby Brown.
In real life, Crawford has opened up about both the sexual and platonic aspects of their relationship. For a time, the pair lived together, sometimes shared a bed, and had cats, The Guardian notes.
“You could tell Whitney and I were tight,” Crawford wrote in her 2019 memoir, A Song for You: My Life With Whitney Houston. “It wasn’t all about our sleeping together.”
“We could be naked,” Crawford added. “We could be bare and didn’t have to hide. We could trust each other with our secrets, our feelings, and who we were. We were friends. We were lovers. We were everything to each other.”
But Houston ended their sexual relationship when she signed her record deal with Clive Davis at Arista Records in 1983.
“She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore because it would make our journey even more difficult,” Crawford said in the memoir. “She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us. And back in the ’80s, that’s how it felt.”
Crawford also told The Guardian that Houston ended that part of their relationship by gifting her with a bible and telling her they had to stop having sex “because it would make our journey even more difficult.” Crawford said Houston told her that, since her career was taking off, if people found out that they had a sexual relationship, “they’d use it against us.”
It’s also true that there was a rift between Crawford and Houston’s family.
Crawford also wrote in her memoir that Houston’s mother, Cissy, didn’t approve of their close relationship.
“Whitney told me her mother said it wasn’t natural for two women to be that close, but we were that close,” she said.
Houston’s brother Gary was of the same mind about Crawford.
“Robyn was a nobody, she was an opportunist,” Gary Houston said in the 2019 documentary Whitney, according to People. “I’ve never seen them do anything but I know that she was something that I didn’t want my sister to be involved with.”
So, all in all, I Wanna Dance With Somebody does take some small artistic liberties with Crawford and Houston’s relationship — it didn’t happen exactly as its shown on screen — but it’s a pretty accurate representation overall.
Though Houston died in 2012 at the age of 48, Robyn Crawford is still alive. She is currently 62 years old and is now married to a woman named Lisa Hintelmann with whom she has two kids.
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is now streaming on Netflix.
Main Image: Nafessa Williams as Robyn Crawford in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Photo credit: Netflix