What Whitney Houston's Final Year Of Life Really Looked Like

The following article mentions addiction.

Vocal powerhouse Whitney Houston not only was one of the greatest singers in recent history, but an inimitable pop superstar. One of the first Black female artists to be heavily featured on MTV, you didn't have to look too hard to find Houston's songs topping the Billboard charts during her prime. While there's been some debate about exactly how many octaves she could hit, there's no doubt that her voice was otherworldly. Naturally, one of her honorific nicknames was "The Voice."

Despite her incredible and record-breaking career, Houston hit a low point in the 2000s. The talk around the star was no longer about her dazzling voice. Instead, it centered her personal life. Her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown and substance use took over the headlines. The tabloids jumped at every opportunity to report on her fall from grace. 

She was mocked endlessly for her personal troubles and questioned about being past her prime vocally. However, when Houston returned in 2009 with "Million Dollar Bill," fans believed this could be the start of a huge comeback for the esteemed vocalist. That comeback would not last. On February 11, 2012, Houston died at the age of 48. The final months of Houston's life showed a complex woman struggling to find her way back to the top. Here's a look at the last year of her life.

Whitney Houston sought treatment

Throughout most of her decades-spanning career, Whitney Houston's struggles with substance misuse were chronicled by the media. Despite her deflection in the infamous Diane Sawyer interview, the singer tried numerous times to get help. In 2009, the singer admitted to using drugs in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Houston opened up about using cocaine and marijuana and spoke about her own mother forcing her to check into rehab. The singer completed rehab stints in 2004 and 2005. 

In the following years, Houston's journey with sobriety went through significant ups and downs. In May 2011, the singer sought treatment once again and headed to an outpatient rehab program. A rep for the singer said in a statement, "Whitney voluntarily entered the program to support her long-standing recovery process." After completing the month-long program, Houston was ready for more help. The following month, TMZ reported she hired a life coach and received additional treatment, a move that suggested she was set on maintaining her recovery.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She was romantically linked to Ray J

In 2006, Whitney Houston's marriage to Bobby Brown came to an end. The star filed for divorce and was ready to move on from a marriage she described as filled with abuse and resentment. As she kicked off her life as a single woman, there weren't many men she was romantically linked to –– except for Ray J. According to The Sun, Brandy Norwood's little brother was first said to be involved with Houston in 2010. Despite the two never confirming a relationship, they were spotted by paparazzi multiple times leaving nightclubs and dinners. The week before she died, the two were seen having dinner.

Ray J was devastated by Houston's death. "It's just such a tough time for me," he told reporters, per The Hollywood Reporter. "I been through a lot in these past two weeks. I'm able to look at life a whole different way."

Two days before she died, Houston and Ray J attended a pre-Grammys party together. Singer Stacy Francis later stated that she and Houston got into a fight that night because Houston believed "The X Factor" alum was pursuing Ray J. Francis got a lot of hate online, and she was disappointed in Ray J, her longtime friend, for not being in her corner. When Francis and Ray J reunited on "Celebrity Big Brother" years later, Ray J seemingly blamed himself for the backlash Francis received. He also shared on the show that he'd turned down multiple offers to talk about Houston following her death. 

She was preparing a comeback in film

Outside of Whitney Houston's influence in music, she was also a superstar in the film world. Her first feature "The Bodyguard" was released in 1992. She not only dazzled on the big screen, but recorded a cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" for the soundtrack that would help make the soundtrack the best-selling soundtrack of all time. She continued to shine in other movies and even produced a couple of more hit films, including "The Princess Diaries." One project that Houston dreamed of bringing to the big screen was "Sparkle."

She produced the remake alongside friend Debra Martin Chase. "We both just loved it. We were both inspired by it. And so when she mentioned, 12 years ago, 'what about we remake "Sparkle,"' I was like, 'oh my God, of course,' and the journey began," Chase told ABC News. This was her first movie role in over 15 years and Houston knew how important this moment was. On set, she agreed to take weekly drug tests to prove she was sober while filming, as noted in "Didn't We Almost Have it All: In Defense of Whitney Houston" (via Rolling Stone). Houston complied with the rules and worked hard to deliver a great performance. 

The singer sadly passed away before the film was released. Outside of "Sparkle," the star was also set on making a sequel to "Waiting To Exhale." Co-star Loretta Divine confirmed to Page Six that Houston was eager to get that project off the ground before her death.

The Voice was working on her voice

Throughout her career, Whitney Houston was known as "The Voice." As the years went on, the voice we knew and adored began to change. Years of drug use and smoking left her voice hoarse, and she struggled to hit the notes on her most iconic records. Despite the change, fans still wanted to hear the pop diva. 

In 2011, there were rumors the star was set to record an eighth studio album. However, longtime mentor Clive Davis shut that down. In an interview with KOST 103.5 (via That Grape Juice), Davis stated that another album would not be released until her "golden voice" returned. He made note of habits the star needed to drop to bring her voice back to what it once was. Houston was aware of that and reportedly was working hard at it. 

According to CNN, just four days before she died, Houston visited a throat specialist who specializes in treating singers with vocal issues. In the week of her death, Houston was in Los Angeles recording the song "Celebrate" for the "Sparkle" soundtrack. Producer Harvey Mason Jr. recalled in an interview with Rolling Stone how dedicated Houston was to getting her vocals just right. "Whitney had days when she sounded amazing; she had days when she sounded decent; and she had days when she sounded not so great," he said. "But she was really working to improve."

She reportedly went through major financial woes

In the days following Whitney Houston's death, news of the star's financial struggles came to light. The New York Daily News detailed how little the star was left with of her once $100 million fortune; Houston reportedly borrowed money from friends even turned to mentor Clive Davis when she struggled to afford her homes. 

Months before her death, a source told Radar Online that the singer was flat broke. "Whitney's fortune is gone," the unnamed tipster claimed. "Music industry heavy hitters are supporting her and her label is fronting her cash against her next album, but no one knows when that will be released." Outside of the business, she was dealing with family disputes over money. Her stepmother sued her for $1 million from her father's life insurance payout. Houston countersued and revealed in court just how much of her fortune she gave to her family over the years. 

Despite the financial strain she was in, Houston had her sights set on projects outside of music. In the year before her death, she starred and produced the movie "Sparkle" as well as provided music for the soundtrack. This project was not only something she was passionate about, but could've been a boon to the singer's bank account.

Whitney Houston was dealing with exhaustion

In October 2011, Whitney Houston was on her way to Detroit to film her comeback movie "Sparkle." The pressure was on for the star to deliver a performance that would help audiences see her in a new light. However, things got off to a rocky start. According to TMZ, the singer reportedly had an incident on a flight and was almost kicked off by the crew. 

According to the report, Houston apparently refused to cooperate with flight attendants when repeatedly asked her to buckle up more than once before the flight took off. After ignoring their verbal requests, one flight attendant came over and buckled her up. The report raised questions regarding whether or not Houston boarded the flight sober, but a source for E! News cleared up any speculation. "She was not drunk or on drugs, she is in the middle of filming a movie and flew across country to attend a charity event and return to filming," the source stated. "She was exhausted."

This wasn't the first story of trouble with Houston at an airport. While getting ready to fly out of Hawaii in 2000, airport security found half an ounce of marijuana in her bag. According to ABC News, the singer boarded her flight before officers could arrive.

Her daughter's struggles with substance use made headlines

In Whitney Houston's final year, her daughter's personal struggles made headlines. In February 2011, Bobbi Kristina Brown's personal life ended up tabloid fodder when The National Enquirer (via Radar Online) published a photo of her allegedly snorting cocaine at a party. A source close to her told the outlet that the superstar's daughter was headed down a difficult path. "Krissi is addicted to cocaine. I've tried to stop her, but all she said was, 'I'm just like my mother!" the source claimed. 

Bobbi Kristina addressed the leaked photos on Twitter. "But it's really not what it looks like...People will do anything for money which is extremely sad, and I'm very hurt by this," the singer's daughter wrote (via CBS News). The National Enquirer then reported that Houston and ex-husband Bobby Brown agreed to send their daughter to rehab. 

In 2015, Bobbi Kristina was found dead in her bathtub at the age of 22. According to Radar Online, before her death, Bobbi Kristina sent her friend some devastating texts about her late mother. "She was and is my everything ma'am," she reportedly wrote. "And if you don't think I don't know what an ounce of HURT anguish and pain is, you are preaching to the wrong woman, because I've [been] in the public eye since I was born."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Her heartbreaking final performance

Two days before her death, Whitney Houston gave her final performance at a pre-Grammys party hosted by longtime friend Kelly Price. On February 9, 2012, Price hosted a party to honor the genre of R&B. During the event, Houston surprised the crowd by jumping on stage, grabbing the mic, and singing the gospel tune "Jesus Loves Me."

As joyful as the performance was, the headlines that followed the event were messy. Per the New York Daily News, there was speculation regarding how much Houston had to drink and her overall state by the end of the evening. What's more, there were the rumblings about an altercation with Stacy Francis over Ray J. When The Hollywood Reporter asked for comment, Francis said, "I have the utmost respect for Whitney Houston and her talent."  

Price later recounted the night with The Hollywood Reporter and maintained that there wasn't any drama and that Houston only had fun at the party. "I'm talking because I want people to know the truth about how things were at her last performance," Price said. "That night was about what you saw onstage. When she left the club, she left tired and drained because we had all danced ourselves into an absolute frenzy." Houston simply just wanted to dance with somebody. 

Whitney Houston's behavior leading up to the Grammys

In the week leading up to the 2012 Grammys, Whitney Houston's stay at the Beverly Hilton made waves. At a press junket held at the hotel ahead of Clive Davis' annual Grammys party, the Los Angeles Times observed, "Though Houston greeted people with a warm smile, she appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and hair that was dripping wet with either sweat or water." The outlet also said she seemed "erratic" and noted that she was apparently spotted doing handstands by the Beverly Hilton pool. 

In the middle of an interview with Davis, Monica, and Brandy, Houston interjected to hand Brandy a note. She was still dripping wet from the pool and talking about how much she enjoyed swimming. A source told CNN that in the days before her death, guests at the hotel were also worried about her and her behavior.

Sadly, the singer never made it to Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy Gala on February 11, 2012. Just before the party kicked off at the Beverly Hilton, the singer was found unresponsive in her bathtub in her hotel room. It was a tragic ending to a story of a star fighting to shine again.