The Cosby Show Role That Whitney Houston Turned Down

Life for Whitney Houston — and pop music as you know it — may have gone very differently, had the musician made one different choice. 

As Houston's website tells it, the story goes that in 1983, Clive Davis saw Houston perform at a nightclub in New York and signed her to Arista Records on the spot. Houston's debut album took two years to create, and didn't release until February 1985. Meanwhile, in 1984, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, NBC premiered The Cosby Show, which would go on to become the most popular TV series of the decade, and led to Lisa Bonet and Raven-Symoné becoming breakout stars. In another dimension, though, the NBC hit could have also introduced another star, in Whitney Houston.

Prior to her encounter with Davis, Houston auditioned to be the eldest Huxtable kid, Sondra, and was even offered the role. But when it came down to it, music was just more important to her. In 2012, under the shadow of Houston's tragic death, director Jay Sandrich recalled in an interview how Houston had turned the role down, saying how she couldn't sign the contract. "I want to be a singer," she reportedly said. "I can't be in every show... I have to be in every tour."

Whitney knew greatness was ahead

At this time, Houston didn't even have a record contract yet. Sandrich tried to persuade her with the idea the show might help her singing career, but she didn't budge. 

"Whitney Houston, she knew," he said.

The Cosby Show could have been a whole bunch of what-ifs for Houston. But in knowing she had to commit herself to music, Houston set off on the trajectory that ultimately led to her legacy as one of the greatest vocalists in music. Just one year after the show premiered, the world was finally introduced to Houston. Her self-titled debut produced hit after hit, including "You Give Good Love," "Saving All My Love For You," "How Will I Know," and "Greatest Love of All." Houston would later make her mark in Hollywood, after her music career had been cemented, with roles in nineties favorites like Waiting to Exhale, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.