From her chart-topping days in the 1980s and '90s to her recovery and relapses in the 2000s and '10s, Whitney Houston lived quite a spectacular life. In anticipation of the "Whitney" documentary release on July 6, 2018, we're taking a look back at the singing legend's life in the spotlight. Keep reading to relive the icon's life through photos…
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Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Aug. 9, 1963, to Army serviceman-turned-entertainment executive John Russell Houston Jr. and singer Cissy Houston, who raised her in the Baptist church where she sang in the gospel choir. She's seen here at age 17.
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Whitney Houston, whose first cousin is vocalist Dionne Warwick, started her career as a teen model and backup singer for her mother, gospel music star Cissy Houston (seen here with Whitney in 1984). The future superstar signed her first record deal with legendary record label executive Clive Davis in 1983.
Whitney Houston was 21 when she released her self-titled debut album in 1985. It featured four chart-topping singles — "You Give Good Love," "Saving All My Love for You," "Greatest Love of All" and "How Will I Know" — and made Whitney (seen here just five days after it hit stores) an international star. She was the No. 1 artist of the year and "Whitney Houston" was the No. 1 album of the year on the 1986 Billboard year-end charts, making her the first woman to earn that distinction. The album went on to be certified 13-times platinum and sell more than 30 million copies worldwide!
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Whitney Houston won her very first Grammy at the 1986 Grammy Awards! That night, the singer — who was nominated in three categories including album of the year — took home the prize for best female pop vocal performance for "Saving All My Love for You," a song she also performed during the telecast.
Whitney Houston's second album, "Whitney," was just as popular as her first. The 1987 release, which featured the No. 1 hit "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)," debuted at No. 1, was certified nine-times platinum and sold 20 million copies worldwide. Whitney, who won her second Grammy for best female pop vocal performance in 1988, also broke multiple records with this album. She became the first woman to generate four No. 1 singles from one album, the first woman in music history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the first artist to enter the albums chart at No. 1 in both the U.S. and U.K., all while also hitting No. 1 or the Top 10 in dozens of other countries around the world. A true superstar!
In 1989, Whitney Houston's life changed forever when she met New Edition singer Bobby Brown at the Soul Train Music Awards. The pair hit it off and began dating. They're seen here at the United Negro College Fund's 46th Annual Awards Dinner in 1990.
Whitney Houston released her third album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight," in 1990. It had a more urban sound and was a step away from the pop songs Whitney released in the '80s. Whitney gave fans several hit singles on this album including the title track as well as "Miracle," "My Name Is Not Susan," "I Belong to You," "We Didn't Know" and "All the Man That I Need." The album itself peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified four-times platinum in the U.S. It sold 12 million copies worldwide.
After three years of dating, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown married on July 18, 1992, in front of 800 guests. Both singers (seen here the same year) wore white for the ceremony — Whitney's French lace dress by designer Marc Bouwer reportedly cost $40,000 — and the wedding party dressed in shades of purple, Whitney's favorite color.
Just a few months after marrying Bobby Brown in 1992, Whitney Houston revealed she was pregnant with her first (and only) child.
In November 1992, Whitney Houston starred in her first film, which was also the biggest movie of her career, "The Bodyguard." The drama was a box-office success, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide. At the time, "The Bodyguard," which co-starred Kevin Costner (seen here with then-wife Cindy and a pregnant Whitney at the flick's premiere), was one of the 100 top-grossing films in history.
Whitney Houston gave birth to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, in Livingston, New Jersey, on March 4, 1993. "Having Bobbi Kristina… I could never do anything that could top that. There's been nothing more incredible in my life than having her," Whitney told Rolling Stone in 1993. "God knows, I have been in front of millions and millions of people, and that has been incredible, to feel that give-take thing. But, man, when I gave birth to her and when they put her in my arms, I thought: 'This has got to be it. This is the ultimate.' I haven't experienced anything greater."
"The Bodyguard" wasn't only a successful movie — it also produced a hugely successful soundtrack. Whitney Houston executive produced and contributed six songs to "The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album" and the album's lead single, "I Will Always Love You," became her signature song. The critically acclaimed track — which was actually a cover of a hit Dolly Parton song — peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks and hit No. 1 on the R&B chart for a then-record-breaking 11 weeks. The song was also certified nine-times platinum, making Whitney the first woman with a single to reach that level in RIAA history. It also became the best selling single by a woman in the U.S. If that wasn't enough, "I Will Always Love You" hit No. 1 in almost every country in which it was released and became the best selling single of all time by a female solo artist with 20 million copies sold! The follow-up singles, "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing," both reached the Top 5, making Whitney the first woman to ever have three singles in the Top 11 simultaneously. The "The Bodyguard" soundtrack was certified 18-times platinum in the U.S. and won Whitney three more Grammys: album of the year, record of the year and best female pop vocal performance.
Whitney Houston followed up her first film role with another successful appearance in "Waiting to Exhale." The 1995 flick, also starring Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett, opened at No. 1 and grossed $67 million at the U.S. box office and $81 million worldwide. The seven-times platinum "Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack featured Whitney's No. 1 hit "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and debuted at No. 1, selling 7 million copies.
Next up, Whitney Houston starred in the 1996 film "The Preacher's Wife" alongside A-list actor Denzel Washington. The movie was another box-office success for Whitney, earning $50 million in the U.S. Much like her other two movies, "The Preacher's Wife" had a celebrated soundtrack supported by Whitney's talent. "The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album" sold six million copies worldwide and included two hit singles, "I Believe in You and Me" and "Step by Step," which helped it remain at No. 1 on the Top Gospel Albums chart for a record-breaking 26 weeks.
Whitney Houston's production company, BrownHouse Productions, made waves in 1997 when its TV film "Cinderella" hit the small screen. The retelling of the classic fairy tale starred Whitney as the Fairy Godmother, '90s pop princess Brandy (seen here with Whitney and husband Bobby Brown at a Hollywood screening) as Cinderella and acting greats Victor Garber, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg and Bernadette Peters in supporting roles. A jaw-dropping 60 million viewers tuned in to ABC to watch what was the highest rated TV musical in years. "Cinderella," which Whitney also co-produced, received seven Emmy nominations and one win for outstanding art direction in a variety, musical or comedy special.
Whitney Houston closed out the '90s with a chart-topping album, her first studio album in eight years. "My Love Is Your Love" had an edgier, funkier sound than Whitney's previous efforts. The 1998 project debuted at No. 13 and spawned numerous successful singles including "Heartbreak Hotel," "It's Not Right But It's Okay," "My Love Is Your Love," "I Learned from the Best" and the "Prince of Egypt" duet "When You Believe," which won the Academy Award for best original song. The four-times platinum album sold 11 million copies worldwide.
Whitney Houston's behavior became increasingly erratic in the early 2000s as she struggled with drug abuse. The singer was frequently late to shows and appearances or often would not show up at all. Her scheduled performance at the 2000 Academy Awards was cancelled after she was fired for "distracted and jittery" behavior and she was stopped by airport security, along with husband Bobby Brown, with marijuana in her bag in January 2000. She later appeared on 2001's "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special," pictured here, sporting an alarmingly thin frame, which she later confessed was due to her drug use.
Whitney Houston sat down for a revealing ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer in 2002 in which she admitted she'd been abusing drugs. The superstar singer confessed to using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and pills but famously denied using crack. "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack," Whitney shared. "Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack." She went on to release her fifth studio album, "Just Whitney," in December 2002. Although the singles didn't perform well, the album still sold 3 million copes worldwide.
Whitney Houston's marriage made headlines when her husband, Bobby Brown, was arrested after he allegedly slapped her in the face and threatened to beat her in December 2003. The two, seen here in June 2004, stayed together. Years later, Bobby admitted he'd hit Whitney during a period when he was "trying to maintain sobriety" but insisted he was not "a violent man." He also confessed that they'd abused drugs together, locking themselves in one wing of their house to get high while a nanny cared for their young daughter in another.
In March 2004, Whitney Houston's rep confirmed she'd entered rehab. That September, she appeared much healthier as she performing at the World Music Awards in Las Vegas.
From June to December in 2005, Whitney Houston appeared alongside husband Bobby Brown, their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and Bobby's kids from previous relationships on the successful trainwreck of a reality TV show "Being Bobby Brown." The Bravo series, which showed Whitney in many bizarre and unflattering moments, gave the network its highest ratings in that time slot but was not renewed after Whitney (seen here with her husband and daughter at their show's premiere) decided she wouldn't return for a second season.
Following years of trouble, toxic behavior and drug abuse, Whitney Houston filed for divorce from Bobby Brown in October 2006 after 14 years of marriage. The divorce was finalized in April 2007 and Whitney was granted full custody of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
After taking a years-long break from the industry, Whitney Houston focused on a career comeback in 2009, sitting down with Oprah Winfrey for her first major TV interview in seven years. She confessed that by 1996, "[doing drugs] was an everyday thing… I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself." Whitney also discussed using with Bobby Brown during their marriage, including smoking marijuana laced with cocaine. The same year, she released a new album, "I Look to You," which entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1. The album, which went platinum, was Whitney's first No. 1 album since the "The Bodyguard" soundtrack and her first studio album to reach No. 1 since 1987's "Whitney."
Whitney Houston entered rehab once again in May 2011 to seek help for her drug and alcohol issues. She's seen here performing at Clive Davis's annual Pre-Grammy Salute to Industry Icons that February.
In late 2011, after completing another rehab stint, Whitney Houston filmed a remake of "Sparkle," which she also executive produced, opposite Jordin Sparks. The movie, which was released in 2012, would be her final film.
On Feb. 9, 2012, Whitney Houston delivered her last performance when she joined Kelly Price on stage at a pre-Grammy party in Hollywood to sing "Jesus Loves Me." Two days later, the superstar was dead. Whitney — seen here at that party with daughter Bobbi Kristina, who would tragically pass away just three years later — was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel just hours before mentor Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammy celebration. The coroner's office determined that her death was caused by accidental drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use." Whitney was only 48 when she died, but her legacy and musical influence continue to live on.