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Whitney's Winning Formula hide

HOW DOES WHITNEY HOUSTON, 23, EXPLAIN HER success? Three top singles from her first album which has itself been at the top of the charts for more than a year and a sell-out wherever she appears in the United States, Miss Houston is taking over the record world with pure talent. The breeding helps. She has better genes than any champion throughbred. Mum is Cissy Houston, appearing at New York jazz clubs every week to packed rooms, Dionne Warwick is a cousin and she calls Aretha Franklin ""aunty".

She sells as many records as any female artist in the world, except for Madonna at the moment and even that is a close race. That debut album called Whitney Hosuton has sold more than six million copies in this country alone. Three top singles from it Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know? and Greatest Love Of All and a fourth, You Give Good Love was a mere Number Three. She's been on the cover of People magazine as the top new star and almost ousted Barbra Streisand for favorite female vocalist. The success has been quick, but in this case you can guarantee it will last. The original question. How does she explain it? "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," she says in the latest issue of US magazine.

Her appeal cuts age and listening barriers. Teenage girls love her and so do the oldies. Golfer Jack Nicklaus, no raver on or off the course, was upset by the noise of radios and cassette players carried by spectators at the United States Open. He was put off his game . ""Until I realised they were playing Whitney Houston," he said later. ""It's easy to swing to her. I like her music." He continued on and shot sub-par.

Her record producer, Narada Michael Walden, says: ""If she sang the way she sang and was in the body of a 300 pounder, I don't think she'd be as huge a star as she is." But Whitney says her success is ""not about sex".

"I have this thing about being sexy and where sex comes from. Either you have it or you don't. It has to come from inside. And when it comes from inside, it's subtle and tasteful. If you try to be sexy, then you're overdoing it."

Her mother chooses her clothes. They are elegant. Mum says they are ""stylish but still youthful . . . I'd like to keep her a nice, pure young lady, you know?" There have been no Madonna-like shenanigans associated with Whitney. She is not the subject of the gossip columns. "Not yet, thank God," says mum. "I don't want her hurt. And I'd like her to grow up gracefully."

The route to the top has been hard work. She's done the proper grounding along the way and if ever there was a star born and raised to the position, it is Miss Houston.

"All of those years, I was preparing myself," she says. ""It's not an overnight sensation. I never wanted success that bad. I never wanted to be a superstar, because - I love singing. I love the art of it. ""Success hasn't changed me the way it can change some people. My family helps me to maintain a good head, and to try to keep everything in balance."

She has no five-year plan to topple Streisand or anything like that.

"I don't plan that far ahead. Tomorrow's not promised. If I'm here, hopefully I'll still be making good music, and doing good things. I'm just looking forward to being alive."

There doesn't appear to be a boyfriend, even for tomorrow. She says she lives a normal life in their home in New Jersey."

Whitney Houston is usually at home, resting, on the phone," she says. ""Listening to music. Maybe playing some tennis. I don't go out to clubs at all. That doesn't thrill me. "I guess I'm a normal 23-year-old kid, young woman. I go home, take showers, brush my teeth. I eat. I sleep. Just like a normal human being does. I drive a car - well, sometimes I don't drive normal."

A special project she is working on is a recording with her mother which should be a guaranteed Number One success. Her family has given her a grounding in soul music. How could she avoid it with Aunty Aretha and Mother Cissy?

"Gospel and the music I'm singing now are really no different," she says. ""They're both being felt. If you don't feel it, nobody else will. Gospel put the seed in me. I'm glad that it's what I got first, that my foundation is rooted there."

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