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Whitney As Wholesome As Apple Pie hide

Whitney Houston was always going to be a singing sensation. From musical stock, the confident 23-year-old has emerged as a major force in the recording industry.

HER mother sang back-up for Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. Her cousin is Dionne Warwick. With that blueblood musical pedigree, it is little wonder that Whitney Houston is the princess of the pop charts.

The talent is undoubtedly in her genes and Whitney Houston has capitalised on her birthright, dominating pop sales with a series of infectious hits.

She is 23 and commands the adoration of tens of millions of fans around the world. In musical terms, she is bigger than Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.

Whitney's first record album sold a staggering 14m copies. The just-released LP Whitney is already a big seller, even though it has been widely panned by the critics.

Simply, Whitney Houston is a phenomenon who cannot be compared to anyone - those who call her the black Madonna or the female Michael Jackson are quickly, though politely, rebuked.

"All of these years, I was preparing myself. It's not overnight sensation. I never wanted success that bad. I never wanted to be a superstar because I love singing," she says.

"I love the art of it all. Success hasn't changed me the way it can change some people. My family helps me maintain a good head and try to keep everything in balance."

Whitney was born in the sprawling industrial city of Newark, just across the river from New York City. Her mother, Cissy, once sang with the back-up group Sweet Inspiration and now sings each Sunday at the local Baptist church.

"I'd like to keep her a nice, pure young lady. I don't want her hurt and I'd like her to grow up gracefully," says Cissy, who makes regular public appearances with her daughter.

Her father, John, once worked for City Hall. Today, he helps, along with most of the family, to run the multi-million dollar business which is Whitney Houston.

As a child, Whitney was encouraged to ignore the bevy of relatives and friends embedded in show business. Her mother thought she might become a doctor, but then she got a taste for music at church.

"The first time I sang in church I wasn't quite sure that I could really sing. But within myself and in hearing and feeling what was coming out of my body, I thought, maybe this is what I'm going to do," she said.

"Gospel and the music I'm singing now are really no different because they're being felt. If you don't feel it, nobody else will. Gospel put the seed in me. I'm glad it's what I got first."

Before she had finished high school Whitney had a brief modelling career, walking the catwalks for the prestigious Wilhelmina Agency while wishing away her final days as a student before she could begin singing.

Major record agencies greeted her graduation with contracts. She chose Arista, the label which boasts many black artists, including Aretha Franklin whom Whitney calls Auntie Ree.

It took almost two years to produce the first album. When the self-titled vinyl finally arrived, success was immediate and pop music had a fresh new superstar.

"I was the primary mover of my career. I told my people to give me a plan and I'd follow and it worked. I travelled and smiled and it worked," she said of her magical debut.

"It was time for singing to come back again. To listen to the words - to feel what somebody was saying instead of what the bop was or what the beat was."

An unprecedented four singles - How Will I Know, Saving All My Love, Greatest Love and You Give Good Love - charted. The making of Whitney Houston had begun in a manner no other recording artist could have imagined.

Her career is carefully managed by Arista and her producers. Some critics have charged they carry a Svengali-like influence over the singer, who cares to be defensive about such accusations.

"My success is not about sex. It has to come from inside. If you try to be sexy, then you're overdoing it," she says. "I just sing, that's all. I did not go into the studio wanting to make a pop album. I don't label it, I don't compare myself to other vocalists, I don't describe what I do.

"I like to think of it as a good sound. I think that goes according to what people think pop music is, you know. Pop music could be just what the public likes."

Whitney seems unfazed by the flurry of publicity and confusion surrounding her short but spectacular career. She appears modest - and is - with a genuine aura of innocence.

"What could freak you out is thinking that you're not normal but some superhuman thing from another planet. That what you have nobody else can have. That's not true, it's a gift," she says.

She relies mainly on her family for her support and Robyn Crawford, a friend from her modelling days. Crawford is now her personal secretary and the pair share an apartment near Whitney's parents' home.

Because she is fairly inaccessible - keeping her private life extremely private - Whitney has had to endure endless gossip and rumors, none of which, she says, bothers her.

"I'm not with any man. I'm not in love. People see Robyn with me and they draw their own conclusions. Anyway, whose business is it if you're gay or you like dogs?" she says.

"My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone lies about you, don't fight it. What others do shouldn't matter. Let people talk. it doesn't bother me because I know I'm not gay. I don't care."

Whitney Houston truly has the world at her feet - she is indisputably a superstar.

And, what's more, she is as wholesome as apple pie. Through selective use of the media, Whitney Houston gives off an all-American image, one carefully thought out to give her the red carpet to success.

"It's like a lot of work to me - about nine or 10 years now. It's not like I just jumped up and said, 'Hey, I want to sing, I want to make records and I can do it'," she says.

"I don't plan that far ahead. Tomorrow's not promised. If I'm here, hopefully I'll still be making good music. I never wanted success that bad. I just love singing."

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