Did Whitney Houston have a secret lesbian relationship?
On Saturday night, the Lifetime original movie Whitney fueled speculation that the singer had an affair with her longtime friend and rumored romantic partner Robyn Crawford, played by Yolanda Ross.
In the film, directed by Angela Bassett, a jealous Robyn fights to protect Whitney (Yaya DaCosta) from Bobby Brown and also intimately comforts the superstar before she hits the stage. Was Robyn's affection more than platonic?
EXCLUSIVE: Yaya DaCosta Channels Whitney Houston In the Studio
"I can’t tell you," Bassett says. "There always has been [rumors] and they still persist and I don’t know. But, there was always the speculation, so my thing was, let it remain. But it'd be however the audience sees it. If they read into it, that's what they read into [regarding] their life – two women who are close and love each other and support one another."
Though Bassett's film opens with Robyn lovingly grabbing Whitney's hands on the way to one of her shows — perhaps suggesting the two were more than just friends — the director says the gesture was, to her, Robyn’s way of reassuring the singer.
"I think what they had between them is a real, honest and fierce affection and caring for one another," she says. "May we all have a friend who will fight for us."
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Bassett, who made her directorial debut with the TV biopic, reveals that even she was accused of being lesbian when she began her life in Hollywood.
"Listen, it’s been said of me. I moved to LA and lived with a friend of mine who was an actress -- I didn’t wanna live alone in this big town!" she tells ETonline, laughing. "Then after a while there was speculation, and it was like, 'Lord, let me get my own place!'"
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However, when it came to Whitney, the singer's own sexuality had no relevance in telling the story, Bassett insists.
"[Whitney’s sexuality] really wasn’t that important," she says. "What was important to me was, they were good friends and they really cared about one another, and that’s a good thing. Now, whatever else you wanna read or tell or say--it's good, it's bad-- it’s what you put on it."
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In a 2000 Out cover story, Whitney herself also addressed the rumors.
"I suppose it comes from knowing people…who are," she speculated. "I don’t care who you sleep with. If I'm your friend, I'm your friend. I have friends who are in the community. And I'm sure that in my days of bein' out, hanging with my friends, having nothing but females around me, something’s gotta be wrong with that."
As for what didn’t make it into Lifetime's biopic, Bassett reveals what about the singer she wasn’t interested in showing.
Watch an exclusive clip from Whitney below.