Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American singer and actress. She is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with sales of over 200 million records worldwide. Houston is also one of the most awarded artists in history. Known for her powerful and soulful vocals, she has influenced many other singers. Houston is the only artist to have seven consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, from "Saving All My Love for You" in 1985 to "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" in 1988.
Houston began singing in church as a child and became a background vocalist while in high school. She was one of the first black women to appear on the cover of Seventeen magazine after becoming a teen model in 1981. With the guidance of Arista Records chairman Clive Davis, Houston signed to the label at age 19. Her first two studio albums, Whitney Houston (1985) and Whitney (1987), both peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and are among the best-selling albums of all time. She became the first female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with her second studio album. Houston's third studio album, I'm Your Baby Tonight (1990), was certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album yielded two Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles: the title track "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "All the Man That I Need".
Houston made her acting debut with the romantic thriller film The Bodyguard (1992). She recorded six songs for the film's soundtrack album, including "I Will Always Love You" which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became the best-selling physical single by a female in music history, with sales of over 20 million copies worldwide. The soundtrack for The Bodyguard won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and remains the best-selling soundtrack album of all time, with global sales of over 45 million copies. Houston starred and recorded soundtracks for two other high-profile films, Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996). Soundtrack of The Preacher's Wife became the best-selling gospel album of all time and scored hit singles with "I Believe In You And Me" and "Step by Step". Houston is credited as the music producer of the album. As a film producer, she produced multicultural movies like Cinderella (1997), and series like The Princess Diaries and The Cheetah Girls.
Houston's first studio album in eight years, My Love Is Your Love (1998), sold millions and spawned several hit singles, including "Heartbreak Hotel", "It's Not Right but It's Okay", and the title track "My Love Is Your Love". Following the critical and commercial success of the album, she renewed her contract with Arista for $100 million – one of the biggest recording deals of all time. However, her personal struggles began overshadowing her career, and the 2002 studio album, Just Whitney, received mixed reviews. Her drug use and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown received widespread media coverage. 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.
Houston was certified as the best-selling female R&B artist of the 20th century by the RIAA. She had also sold more physical singles than any other female solo artist in history. Houston released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold. She was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Her accolades include two Emmy Awards, eight Grammy Awards (including Record and Album of the year wins), 14 World Music Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards and 22 American Music Awards. In 1997, the Franklin School in East Orange, New Jersey was renamed to The Whitney E. Houston Academy School of Creative and Performing Arts. Houston and Aretha Franklin were the only two female artists to make the top 10 of Billboard’s “35 Greatest R&B Artists Of All Time”, with Houston at number nine. She was also ranked by VH1 among the "Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time" and the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons of All Time". In 2008, Rolling Stone named her one of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Houston’s entrance into the music industry is considered one of the "25 musical milestones of the last 25 years", according to the USA Today in 2007.