Before Bobbi Kristina Brown took the stage Sunday night to honor her mother, music icon Whitney Houston, during the Billboard Music Awards, stories surfaced online about a rift between Houston’s only child and her sister-in-law Pat Houston. Both wanted to be on the stage to accept an honor on the singer’s behalf. All reports seemed to hint that the show had only asked Bobbi, but the sister-in-law was inserting herself into the tribute.
It seemed to be a strange thing to fight over.
But then I remembered that Pat Houston has a reality show coming out about the lives of the Houston family since Whitney’s passing. And suddenly, it all makes sense.
Titled “The Houston Family Chronicles,” the show will feature Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, and mother Cissy Houston, though the focus will be on The Bodyguard superstar’s brother Gary Houston and sister-in-law and manager Pat Houston, as well as their daughter, Rayah.
Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick and Bobbie Kristina’s godmother, gospel legend CeCe Winans, will also appear in the series.
According to Lifetime, the reality show will focus on Pat and Gary “as they take on their greatest challenge, supporting and guiding Bobbi Kristina as she faces the world alone, without the one person she relied on the most, her mother.”
While every family is free to grieve in whatever way they feel fit, there’s something ghoulish about grief via reality TV.
The Houston family’s sudden move from the background in Whitney’s life to the limelight has shades of the most recent season of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series went morbid late last year in the aftermath of cast member Taylor Armstrong’s husband’s suicide. Armstrong, who was a battered spouse, rounded out her public grief with a book tour.
And the Houston family has had their reputations rocked by reality TV before with the image tarnishing embarrassment that was Being Bobby Brown. The 2005 Bravo network show chronicled Houston’s then husband Bobby Brown and his children’s lives with a seemingly out-of-it Houston along for the ride. While highly rated, the show only lasted one season after Houston refused to appear in any more episodes.
Maybe the show will be a loving, comical, and career-boosting tribute, akin to what Braxton Family Values has been for singer Toni Braxton and her loving, bickering, then loving again sisters. But something about it makes me not want to trust it. Something about how for months since Houston’s death someone within the family has routinely leaked gossip to sites like TMZ about Houston’s mother Cissy’s reactions and Bobbi Kristina’s personal life. Houston’s death knocked down that last remaining wall of what was left of her personal life and made it public.
It reminds me of some of the messier aspects of Michael Jackson’s family. That for every member who sought to protect their brother and son’s legacy, there was father Joe Jackson, out on the eve of the funeral, show-boating his latest “act” for CNN. Then Jackson’s remaining brothers turned what was supposed to be a one-hour special about an upcoming tour into a reality show in the wake of Michael’s death.
It, like Being Bobby Brown, didn’t last.
I understand that Bobbi Kristina may want to sing. I can understand a family’s need to find ways to make money after the primary bread-winner is gone. I can understand grief. I don’t understand exploitation and fighting over who gets to accept tributes on the behalf of someone they all claimed to have loved dearly. I don’t understand exposing your grief, family stress and pain to public scrutiny. I don’t understand rushing into a spotlight that, in the end, contributed to the death of someone you held dear.
I don’t get it.
But I’m sure they’ll be happy to explain it all one night a week for Lifetime Television.