Kasi Lemmons’s musical biopic ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody‘ takes on the bold task of recounting the life and career of one of the most notable vocalists in the American entertainment industry, Whitney Houston. The movie follows her rise to fame from her earlier days in 1983, singing in a church choir until her untimely death in 2012. Throughout the story, the singer’s relationships with her friends and family form a prominent center of discussion for the narrative.
As such, the biopic features the publicly turbulent relationship between Houston and her father towards the end of the latter’s life. However, viewers might wonder if this personal and professional dynamic depicted on screen is a dramatization of what happened in reality. Let’s find out how much of Whitney and John Houston’s relationship was authentically portrayed in ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’
Did Whitney Fire John As Her Manager?
In 2002, the feud between Whitney Houston and her father was a significant topic of conversation among several media outlets and pop-culture enthusiasts. At the time, she was being sued by her father’s company, John Houston Enterprises, for millions of dollars, with allegations of failure to pay for services. Earlier in 2000, Whitney had gotten in trouble with the law after getting caught in a drug bust in Hawaii. The John Houston Enterprises claimed they had worked as managers for the musician during that tumultuous time and resolved the legal issues for her.
Moreover, the company claimed to have a hand in securing Houston her $100 million contract with Arista Records. Though John had founded the company himself, Kevin Skinner was the president during this legal feud. “We weren’t her managers per se, at least not in name. But we were in effect. She had no management at that time, and we masterminded the whole situation.” Kevin said regarding his company’s involvement with Whitney Houston. Inversely Whitney claimed to have never hired them in the first place.
In the film, the confrontation between Whitney and her father, John, is a lot more personal. Within the dramatized realm of the biopic, John has been misusing Whitney’s finances for his own purposes. After finding out about this, she confronts her father but walks out of their argument with no changes to their professional agreement. It isn’t until John Houston is on his deathbed in the hospital that Whitney informs him of her decision to replace him as her Manager with Pat Houston, her sister-in-law. Consequently, he threatens to sue her, and the scene abruptly cuts to his funeral.
In real life, the dispute between the father-daughter duo had been more public, with John appearing on the TV show ‘Celebrity Justice’ from his hospital bed and demanding Whitney pay him his due. “You get your act together, honey, and you pay me the money that you owe me,” he said. “If you do that, you haven’t got a lawsuit.” Additionally, unlike in the film, Houston first approached Pat Houston to work for her in 2000, during her Hawaiian drug bust case.
While making the movie, director Kasi Lemmons and screenwriter Anthony McCarten both had their own perceptions of the relationship between John and Whitney Houston. “He was the one who spoke to me about the brand. That was very chilling. That was his daughter that he was talking about!” said Lemmons recollecting her personal experience with John. On the other hand, McCarten viewed John as “a villain with a very small v.”
Ultimately, Whitney Houston did have a complicated relationship with her father, as depicted in ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ Eventually, their strained relationship led to a gash in their professional association. Nevertheless, following her father’s death, the music icon appeared on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ She shared she had resolved her issues with her father near the end of his life and had forgiven him for how things played out between the two.
Read More: Is Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance with Somebody Based on a True Story?