Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American singer and actress. She was cited as the most awarded female artist of all time by Guinness World Records and remains one of the best-selling music artists of all time with 200 million records sold worldwide. Houston released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Her crossover appeal on the popular music charts—as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know"—influenced several African-American women artists who followed in her footsteps.
Houston began singing in church as a child and became a background vocalist while in high school. With the guidance of Arista Records chairman Clive Davis, she signed to the label at the age of 19. Her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987), both reached number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States, and to-date are the biggest-selling first two albums released of any artist in history. To this day, she is the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, from "Saving All My Love for You" in 1985 to "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" in 1988.
Houston made her screen acting debut in the romantic thriller film The Bodyguard (1992). She recorded six songs for the film's soundtrack, including "I Will Always Love You", which received the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became the best-selling single by a woman in music history. The soundtrack album received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year; it remains the all-time best-selling album by a female artist, as well as the best-selling soundtrack album in history. Houston made other high-profile film appearances and contributed/produced their accompanying soundtracks, including Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996). The Preacher's Wife soundtrack went on to become the best-selling gospel album in history.
Following the critical and commercial success of My Love Is Your Love (1998), Houston signed a $100 million contract with Arista Records. However, her personal struggles began overshadowing her career, and the album Just Whitney (2002) received mixed reviews. Her drug use and tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown were widely publicized in media. After a six-year break from recording, Houston returned to the top of the Billboard 200 chart with her final studio album, I Look to You (2009).
On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. The coroner's report showed that she had accidentally drowned in the bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use as contributing factors. News of her death coincided with the 2012 Grammy Awards and was featured prominently in international media.