No matter how famous celebrities become, there are always those few friends who know them best. Robyn Crawford, former executive assistant and oldest around-the-way Newark, NJ friend of Whitney Houston, knew the singer both in and out of the spotlight. In a touching article written by Crawford, she reveals the complex evolution of Houston not only as a performer, but as a person and a friend. Having met as teenagers, Crawford and Houston would quickly become comrades, growing closer as the fledgling superstar's fame took off. Even as a young woman, Houston still had a special something about her that immediately told Crawford that she was destined for much more than singing in Newark. "Not long after I met her, she said, "Stick with me, and I'll take you around the world," recalls Crawford. "She always knew where she was headed."

Taking heed of Houston's heads up, Crawford accompanied the late singer during the early stage of her career as she dominated the globe with her legendary vocal talent and astonishing looks. As a close friend of Houston, Crawford had an intimate look at both the professional and personal growth of the songstress, recalling that Houston was publicly regarded as America's Sweetheart with the warm, soulful voice who could do no wrong. But, angel she was not. Instead, Crawford reminds us she was simply human: "People thought they had to protect her. She hated that. And that's what people don't understand: She was always the one doing the driving."

In addition to giving her listeners her all, Houston was also known for her generosity amongst her close circle, showing gratitude and appreciation towards those who worked for her, including Crawford. Nonetheless, the physical and mental stress of being a musical icon was gradually taking a heavy toll on Houston, a burden that Houston rarely allowed anyone access to despite their best efforts. "She shared the fruits, and she changed a lot of lives," says Crawford. "The record company, the band members, her family, her friends, me — she fed everybody. Deep down inside that's what made her tired."

Ultimately, as reports of Houston's death surface and the media slowly but surely begins to pounce on one-side of the singer, recollections such as Crawford's remind us that Houston was a truly one-of-a-kind woman who lived a life as wonderfully complex and remarkable as her breathtaking career. 

Will Houston's irreplaceable talent be recognized with as much depth and scope as Crawford gives her late friend? Or will this be another instance of the media staking claim to yet another star gone too early?

Read it at Esquire.