If you’re a Whitney Houston fan who is not a Robyn Crawford fan, this film is not for you. In all seriousness, if you follow Lena Waithe’s work, you know that she is a big fan of the late great Houston. The Emmy and MTV award-winning multi-hyphenate bravely and boldly created Beauty, the new film that is undoubtedly inspired by the woman many of us know as “The Voice.”
In Beauty, directed by Andrew Dosunmu, a young singer with a promising career feels pressure from her family, industry politics, and her queer relationship. While the story is fictional, readers of the New York Times bestselling memoir A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston (Dutton, 2019) by Crawford (Houston’s then longtime close friend, assistant, and creative director who was famously romantically linked to her) will notice several connections. There are parallels beyond the book. Below are 7 of them.
- Beauty, portrayed by Grace Marie Bradley, who effortlessly delivers (the entire cast is fantastic), bears a canon resemblance to Houston during the infancy of her career.
2. Beauty’s mother is a former singer like Houston’s real mother Cissy.
3. Beauty’s girlfriend Jasmine is mistreated by Beauty’s family and industry staff, per Crawford’s own account.
4. Beauty is a smoker.
5. Beauty has two brothers like Houston, one of them having a different father.
6. The whole singing and making “White” music debate.
7. An aesthetically-Bobby Brownish character.
A takeaway is how much Beauty is reminded of her brilliance and, yes, beauty, while simultaneously receiving messages that she needs fixing. Who she is naturally is considered a liability. Because young girls will look up to her she has to hide her relationship? Her attractiveness is duly noted, yet she needs a stark makeover? Then on the other side of it, it is as though they want the woman with the talent and looks, but that’s all. From the start, one can argue that she was seen as a cash cow from the business and her own family.
There are stories within stories, and that is something that Waithe clearly grasped when writing Beauty. Out of the different sensationalized aspects of Houston’s career, she identified one that resonated with her the most and fleshed it out into a work of heart. But be clear, this is more than a Houston-inspired tale. This film addresses challenges and stigmas held in the households, workplace, and society overall. It could truly be a mini-series, as this is a story with even more story to it.