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Whitney Houston: Trying To Stay Normal in an Abnormal World hide

When she's not picking up a Grammy award, singing the "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, taping a music video or recording an album, Whitney Houston insists she tries to live a normal life.

How normal is normal? For Houston, it means making her home miles from the glitz of Los Angeles, in the small town of Mendham, N.J. She avoids other trappings of superstardom. Not for her the hyperbaric chamber, pet llamas or frequent plastic surgery favored by Michael Jackson. She has no large entourage, as does Eddie Murphy. Unlike Madonna, she rarely wears a disguise when going out.

Houston, 27, sounds almost too good to be true. When she's not touring, she attends the same church in Newark -- New Hope Baptist -- that she went to as a child. When she can, she sings in the church's gospel choir that nurtured her voice when she was young. Her mother is still minister of music there. And life wouldn't be any fun without frequent runs to McDonald's.

"I don't dress up and I don't dress down," says Houston of her forays for fast food. "I look like anybody so I'm always surprised when people recognize me." Wholesome superstars are at a premium so that may be why Houston is the headliner at a concert welcoming back troops from the Persian Gulf. The concert is Houston's first-ever solo concert on television. It will be televised at 9 p.m. on Easter Sunday on HBO from the Navy base in Norfolk, Va.

Houston said that her emotional (albeit pre-taped) rendition of the national anthem at this year's Super Bowl sparked a sense of patriotism in her. She plans to open the HBO concert with the song.

"I was thinking about doing something else for the fellows over there and I was considering going overseas," said Houston. "Then the war ended and this came up."

Houston plans to begin a national tour not long after the concert that will not end until August.

"At that point, I won't be able to move," said Houston.

Houston's third album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight," was released recently and appears headed for the same mega-sales racked up by her first two efforts, "Whitney Houston" and "Whitney." She is considering acting offers but said for now she is "just fine" with the way her career is going.

It sounds as if it has been a charmed career, ever since it began Lana Turner-like when a modeling scout spotted her on a Manhattan street when she was 16. She signed with the Click agency and modeled for eight years.

But Houston said fame has its drawbacks.

"The thing about big success is that if you don't know who you are going in, then you'll never find out," she said.

Houston, who frequently cites her belief in God, said she came "face to face" with herself and her faith when she was 14 -- and never turned back.

"I still value my parents, my family and friends -- the people who don’t treat me any differently," she said.

"This whole thing has its wonderful, wonderful moments. But it has its price to pay. Nobody knows it until it happens to them. Your life is definitely not your own. It becomes the worlds."

So Houston said she works at normalcy.

"If you're smart, you can have your own life; you don't have to be isolated," she said. "It's a feat unto itself but I have to know that a part of my life is all my own."

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