Monique Houston is aware of the consequences. A former sister-in-law of Whitney Houston, she made the mistake of speaking out years ago about what she said was a pattern of enabling within the Houston family. The result? She was cut off. Monique Houston was married to Gary Houston and the two share a son and daughter. But this time, Houston says she will not be silent.
Like most people who’ve ever been affiliated with Whitney Houston and who have spoken out since her death, she says she wasn’t surprised at how her story played out. But the culprit, Houston says, is that for years there’s been a pattern of enabling, and she hopes that by speaking out now, she’ll help save the next generation of the Houston clan. Monique Houston talks with EBONY.com
EBONY: Why do you want to talk now?
Monique Houston: If it’s not now, when? I just really had to speak out about the cycle that has gone on for a number of years. Now is the time for me really to take this situation and speak about it. So that’s where I’m at now. I’ve really tried to shield my children. They’ve dealt with a lot over the years and I really try to shield them from a lot of negativity that would come their way, but now that they are adults and they’re as healthy as they can be under the circumstances, I think they’re prepared for what’s ahead and some of the realities.
EBONY: It sounds like you really weren’t all that shocked at how things unfortunately ended for your former sister-in-law, is that correct?
MH: No, I wasn’t shocked. I was caught off guard. You know, we all prayed that she would recover and …recovery with a drug addict is an ongoing process. But she just was so healthy and beautiful from the press that came out of Sparkle, that it just totally caught me off guard. I really was sitting back and looking forward to the movie actually coming out and what would happen for her with that. So I was really caught off guard, but unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised.
EBONY: When was the last time you’d actually spoken with her?
MH: Many years ago. I left right after her wedding to Bobby Brown. I left my husband around that time, and then I think I had Thanksgiving with her and Bobby and Mrs.[Cissy] Houston about a year or two after that. So that was one of the last times I had actual contact with her.
This information I’m revealing is kind of like ‘don’t kill the messenger.’ It’s hard to hear, and a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but it’s the truth. And sometimes the truth is painful.
EBONY: What do you think the real issue was? You kind of say that the burden of being Whitney Houston is what ultimately killed your former sister-in-law. What do you mean about that, specifically?
MH: Well, it was a large image to live up to. I mean, the image they created for her was a part of who she was, but it wasn’t the whole person. And I feel that trying to live up to that perfect type of pop diva type of image they created for her was a lot of weight. Trying to live up to what everybody in her family wanted or needed from her was a huge responsibility for her also. And then the media just picked at her constantly and always questioned her lifestyle … I just feel like that was an awful lot of pressure.
EBONY: Did you ever talk with her about that pressure back when you all still had a relationship and were talking more frequently?
MH: We never talked about the pressure, per se, but anytime that she did have down time, you could really get a general sense that she cherished it. It was an awful lot to get out there and work. The road was very demanding and tiring and Whitney was really a homebody. I believe she did love to sing, but my opinion is the performance end of it and the rigors of that really took a toll on her as well.
EBONY: How about your children? I know that they’re older, but how are they handling it? And what have you said to them about it?
MH: It was really devastating. The first thing they did was basically to come home and withdraw a little bit. My son didn’t want to go to school—he’s finishing up at Morehouse. The conversation I have had with them has been the truth over the years. My ex-husband was arrested for drugs in North Carolina (when they were kids). So here I am as a parent trying to shield them and not have them watch TV and they go to school and somebody in the first grade says, ‘Your father was arrested for drugs; he’s a drug dealer.’ You know? Or they would come at them, ‘Oh, your aunt’s this or your aunt’s that.’ Over the years, I