The official report claims that her cause of death is unknown, but anyone who has followed Ms. Houston’s career is aware that her life has been unraveling for a long time. So, why is her death so surprising? Tweet
Her disastrous slide has been similar to that of pop star, Michael Jackson, who died at about the same age.
Yet, making sense of Whitney’s tragic demise has less to do with the King of Pop, than it does with another famous person who died this week.
Two women, two approaches to life
The two deaths were reported on the same page in the February 12 issue of the Detroit Free Press.
The Whitney Houston obituary headline reads: Voice of an angel, a life of demons, while Kinmont Boothe’s announcement reads: Ski champ Jill Kimmont Boothe built a rich life after big crash.
It’s striking how similar the their two lives were.
Both women became famous at a young age. Both had very public disasters.
Only one was able to make something positive of her tragedy.
The other side of the mountain
Jill Kinmont Boothe was the national women’s slalom champion and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was trying to make the U.S. Olympic team in 1955 when she crashed during a public ski event.
According to the Free Press, Jill spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair, but “learned to write, type, and paint using her neck and shoulder muscles with the aid of a hand brace.”
She became an inspiration to people–especially women–everywhere. Two movies were made of her life, including The Other Side of the Mountain. Kinmont Boothe had much taken from her early in life, but she seemed to overcome her physical disabilities and adapt to a limited, yet meaningful existence.
Whitney Houston also had famous crash. Her disaster was also public, but it evolved over the last 15 years or so.
Tabloid and newspapers that covered her decline were an early warning system for anyone who was paying attention: The diva’s troubled marriage to pop star, bad boy, Bobby Brown; the on-camera meltdown while being interviewed by Diane Sawyer; her dramatic physical changes as she grew old before her time.
Houston’s erratic behavior and drug use became more noteworthy than her musical output. Whitney had a majestic voice and regal image, but her personal life evolved into a slow-motion hell.
Didn’t they almost have it all?
One of Houston’s most famous songs, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, provides a lyrical irony that can help us make sense of such tragedies.
“Having it all” is not about having riches, possessions, and fame. It’s far more important to attain the rhythm of life by developing success habits, good judgement, and the ability to choose safe friends.
Focusing on the wrong things can, over time, wreak havoc with one’s personal life and even bring about death.
That’s the day’s biggest headline.