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Whitney: Can I Be Me?

Many people are unaware of Whitney Houston's personal life.

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Redferns

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Most people would likely recognize the name Whitney Houston, and think of some of her greatest hits, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and the more known “I Will Always Love You.” However, most people do not know who she actually was and may only be familiar with her public image.

This idea is explored within director Nick Broomfield’s (Kurt & Courtney, Biggie & Tupac) documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me. It gives more personal information and background on the star and adds possible explanation to why her career was tragically ended when she died from complications due to drug use at the age of 48 in 2012.

The film begins with a recap of her sudden passing and moves into her family life. She is shown to have grown up in the ghetto and had a religious upbringing. Drug use is also mentioned, and it is said that Whitney began using at a very young age. The film argues that this ultimately had an effect on who she became as a person and how it led to her demise.

Her career began during the her early teens with her first singing backup and then getting her own recording contract. It is then shown that her image was meticulously crafted by her record label early on. This image is stressed as something that Whitney was not always on equal terms with, and it shows that she had a personal struggle between who she actually was and who she was known by the public to be.

Another part of this that the film talks about is the fact that she was not only a black recording artist but also one of the best selling music artists of of all time. The image that the record label had worked so hard to build up also included the types of material released- the production of more pop oriented “white” sounding as opposed to the more R&B “black” sounding music.

This caused her to be widely successful and be marketed to reach a wider audience, but it also drew criticism from the black audience. It is also discussed how this paved the way for other black female recording artists in the future. Again, the rift between who she actually was as a person and the person she was molded into to be drew great conflict.

This also carried out into her personal life, as shown through a collection of never before seen footage and performances from her 1999 tour of Germany that is displayed in the documentary.

Her personal assistant and childhood friend Robyn Crawford also plays a major role in the identity crisis that is presented. The film addresses and confirms allegations of their supposed relationship. However, the only proof of this is brief accounts made by those related to Whitney, and nothing concrete is shown.

Throughout the film, a retrospective look upon her life and career as well as personal life provides insight as to who she actually was. However, the often segmented and incomplete commentary provided about her personal life almost takes away from the portrayal of her life and what she was famous for. Overall, the film does draw attention to what she was famous for, her immense vocal talent and lively personality.

Whitney: Can I Be Me should be watched by fans for the rare footage and never before seen performances as well as a celebration of her life and impact rather than a truly meaningful and reliable look into her private life.

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Whitney: Can I Be Me?