Who Is Robyn Crawford?

When folks think of music legend Whitney Houston, any number of facts, images, or memories might come to mind. Perhaps it's her soaring, virtuosic voice and regal presence. Perhaps it's standout songs like her 1992 cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." Perhaps, sadly, it's her abusive relationship with spouse Bobby Brown. Unless you're a true fan or are caught up on your Whitney Houston trivia, it's unlikely that you've heard of one of the most important — yet quietly involved— people in her life: Robyn Crawford. 

Crawford stepped forward in 2019 to put to print a testimony concerning her and Houston's relationship and history, "A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston." The book blurb calls Crawford a "close friend, collaborator, and confidante." Its pages describe her and Houston as soulmates and lovers. By all accounts, Crawford stuck by Houston's side through the latter's rise to fame, during tough and happy times alike, all the way to their final phone call that ended with the usual, "I love you. Call me," as Crawford says on Oprah Daily.

As The Guardian recounts, Crawford and Houston kept their relationship under wraps after Houston signed her record deal, even if they felt "young, and fearless, and free." Moving into the mid-1980s, when Houston was able to afford it, she hired Crawford as an assistant, and the two moved in together. Crawford took on "the role of protector," and their relationship continued and evolved from there.

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Saving all my love for you

As the Independent says, Robyn Crawford and Whitney Houston met in 1980 when they both worked as camp counselors in New Jersey. According to Crawford, "In the early part of that friendship, it was physical," continuing, "It was during that first summer that we met, was the first time our lips touched. And it wasn't anything planned, it just happened. And it felt wonderful." This happened within the "first weeks" of getting to know each other, as Vanity Fair's Gerrick Kennedy writes. Houston had Crawford listened to records of her mother Cissy, her cousin Dione Warwick, and her "auntie" Aretha Franklin. And because musical talent apparently ran in the family, Vanity Fair says Crawford was "knocked out by the power and majesty" of Houston's voice when Houston sang in church.

But despite being heavily involved in the church, neither Houston nor Crawford held any reservations about their relationship. "We were friends. We were lovers," Vanity Fair quotes Crawford. "We were everything to each other. We weren't falling in love. We just were. We had each other. We were one: That's how it felt." On the Independent, Crawford says that she and Houston "never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay. We just lived our lives and I hope it could go on that way forever."  To the outside world, though, especially within a music industry, where Houston was "being groomed for a record deal," "God forbid you were Black and gay or bisexual," Gerrick Kennedy writes.

Picking up the pieces along the way

Robyn Crawford was so committed to supporting Whitney Houston during the singer's early career that she left school to "make [Houston's] dream happen," as she says on Oprah Daily. "I left school not to be her lover, but to be there for her. To work and watch her rise. I believed in the dream that she painted. When I saw her in church, I felt the energy. I was a witness. I knew she had a powerful gift to touch people that was much bigger than either of us."

When Houston started dating other people during the 1980s — Jermaine Jackson, Eddie Murphy, and Bobbie Brown — Crawford said it was difficult for her, per The Guardian. "It didn't feel like she was cheating on me," Crawford said, "it felt more like she was leaving me out." When each relationship ended, Crawford helped pick up the pieces. On Oprah Daily, Crawford said that she "had to be okay with it" because it was "best for the journey."

Regarding Bobby Brown, Crawford told Oprah Daily that she "really wanted this to work" for Houston, no matter Brown's reputation as a "womanizer." And yet, Brown — who apparently knew about Crawford and Houston's relationship — said in his 2008 autobiography "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But" that Houston married him to squelch rumors of her bisexuality. The marriage, he said, "would kill all speculation, whether it was true or not," per the Independent

Together in spirit

In the end, perhaps Robyn Crawford sums it up best in her interview with Oprah Daily, "We were a team. We always knew she had a bigger purpose, and we were ready for this. We were fearless, ferocious, intelligent, beautiful, strong, and determined. She had me, I had her. And our eyes never left each other. But I knew my role. I was the number two." The last time she and Whitney Houston talked was after Houston called 911 following a fight with Bobby Brown. Houston eventually died in 2012 when she accidentally drowned with traces of "cocaine and prescription medications" in her blood, as ABC News says.

Crawford and Houston had drifted apart by then, and some claim that Houston "would still be alive today" if she'd maintained closer contact with Crawford, as The U.S. Sun says. For her part, Crawford seems to have come to terms with Houston's death and how things played out, saying on Oprah Daily, "She's here. She's with me, I know she is. And she's never left." Crawford says she stepped forward recently because she wanted to clear the air, saying, "I actually sat there and asked her up above: 'What would you want me to do? Do you understand why now?'"

At present, Crawford is now married to her wife Lisa, and the two live in New Jersey with their twins. Crawford and Houston's relationship is set to be explored further in 2022's upcoming Whitney Houston biopic, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."