Would you be surprised if this headline was the finding from Whitney Houston’s autopsy? Thoughtful, and somber, fans have already considered it likely. This fan is not surprised, yet am saddened by the early flame-out of another brilliant Candle in the Wind. Yea…me too. I do think of Marilyn Monroe and Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson. All brilliant entertainers, all beautiful, all rich, all famous, and all very troubled.
As a Public Relations professional, I can’t help but wonder what went through her head before making a deadly decision, assuming she did end her own life. Even as her Publicity machine choreographs her funeral arrangements, you can’t ignore the proximity of time-of-death to the Grammy Awards telecast the next day. Was this some disturbed effort to make her last performance a publicity win? Was it a tragic effort to give to her colleagues and fans a gift as she is credited by some with the 50% increase to 40 million Grammy viewers?
Regardless, this is a tragedy that seems to repeat itself in the entertainment world as well as other areas of fame and fortune. Is there something we can learn? Here are some possibilities:
- Caregivers and professional associates risk becoming accomplices when they become “yes men” instead of calling us on our addictive and bad behavior. I’ve had to make tough calls for relatives and even clients who were wandering down dangerous paths.
- Good looks, fame, fortune do not guarantee happiness. The most happy folks seem to be giving back of themselves to benefit the human race, and humanitarian work makes for good PR (ie. Angelina Jolie). Most of us idealize and wish we were there in the limelight with more “stuff,” but reality is something quite different than ideal once we get there.
- Hollywood, and the work place, are rampant with age and weight discrimination. The entertainment “machine” is especially ruthless on aging women. Utah Business Magazine has a “40 Under 40” business leader competition. Where’s the “40 Over 40” competition? Ever tried to get a job past age 50 or 25% over weight?
- Celebrity worship is a dead end road. There was only One I’m aware of who lived so perfectly as to earn such veneration.
I may add to my thoughts later, but finally I would say that Whitney proved once again that you can rise above childhood challenges to become something better. She certainly had a qualified public relations team. They and others may have tried hard to pull Whitney back from the edge. My thoughts go out to her family and loved ones as we reflect on her One Moment in Time.
Do you agree?