When Whitney Houston first broke out onto the world stage in the mid-1980s, rumors that she was a lesbian (or maybe bisexual) stalked the star at every turn. As she became more famous, questions around who Robyn Crawford was — beyond being her best friend and assistant — only intensified.
The star would continually deny allegations that her relationship with Crawford was anything more than a close friendship, but nevertheless the questions persisted. Through it all, Houston and Crawford never shared details about what many felt was obvious: They were in love.
With the release of her memoir A Song for You: My Life With Whitney Houston, Crawford finally shares her story in her own way. Weeks before the launch of the book, she spent an afternoon with The Advocate’s Editor-in-Chief to set the record straight on everything from her romantic relationship with Houston to why she’s finally speaking out.
Crawford and Stafford’s entire conversation can be heard via The Advocate’s podcast, LGBTQ&A, but below is a sneak peek at their intimate conversation about a woman loved by all, especially Crawford.
I was open to companionship and friendship. She was the same. She was looking for it. We connected on that, I believe...One of the things we had in common that held us together was our love of music. That was around the time she said, “Stick with me and I’ll take you all around the world.” This is 16. She hadn’t done anything yet. She spoke it into existence.
Your relationship was romantic, especially during your teenage years, but you didn’t use the words “gay” or “lesbian.” How did you talk about your relationship back then?
You have to first understand the time: the ‘80s. I feel like we were at the forefront of everything, everything that’s here today in a big way. You were either this or that. You were either R&B or pop.
Whitney did not like labels: “I don’t sing Black. I don’t sing white. I sing.” There was a category for everything.
Our love that we experienced, we were intimate on every level. We were friends. That’s how we came together, as friends. We got to know each other in an open, bare, naked way. The feeling that we felt between us, there was a moment we shared. It was physical. We weren’t ashamed of it, but we were preparing ourselves for the big business, which was huge at that time.
The love that we shared, it was deep, really deep.… One day, we decided — before her career really took off, before she recorded her first album — that if people found out about us, they would use it against us. So we made the determination to not be physical any longer. We sat down and made the conscious decision that we would not do this. I loved her. It was important for our love to be unconditional and nothing ever changed.
We were truly connected...We just sacrificed the physical.
Whitney came home one day with a Bible. She handed you the Bible and had this conversation with you.
It was 1982. She said, “I don’t think we should be physical any longer.” I was jolted, of course. But we were still so close, and we had a path ahead of us, and I was there. We were there together. And we took turns inscribing on the back of the Bible, on that last page, sharing what our love meant to each other and how devoted and loyal we were going to be through this process, how it was our secret.… It was ours, but God saw it too. We both believed in someone bigger.
How’s it feel to finally open up about everything?
Before I really knew what I was going to do, to share my story, I asked, “What would Whitney want me to do?” And would she understand the now? And once I got that answer, I knew that to relive the ’80s…she knew that I would do right by her. She knew that I would put her first. I would do my best because once I share my story, it’s no longer mine.
My intent is to lift her legacy and honor my best friend because she is a real person, you know? And let people know this young lady was everything they imagined her to be.
New episodes of the LGBTQ&A podcast come out every Tuesday.
A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston by Robyn Crawford is available now.