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How Whitney Houston Dominated Fashion In The 1980s and 90s

A style force to be reckoned with

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Today would have marked the 59th birthday of the incomparable Whitney Houston. In addition to being one of the most gifted and accomplished vocalists to ever grace this planet, Whitney was also a successful actress, model, and entrepreneur.

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Many people don’t know this, but Whitney actually started her professional career in entertainment as a model. That is when she wasn’t working as a back-up singer for her mother Cissy Houston, who was also an accomplished singer.

While we didn’t get too much of Whitney the model due to her, ya know, becoming one of the greatest artists of all-time, you can definitely say that she used the brief experience to her advantage with all of the promotional photoshoots, magazine shoots, and videos that would follow through the course of her career.

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And honestly, it’s a little bit sickening. Whitney had both looks and features stunning enough to be a supermodel, and one of the greatest singing voices of all-time. It’s not fair. You should have to choose one, but we digress.

Let’s take you through the fashion career of Whitney shall we?

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The Early Years

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As we just mentioned, Whitney started off her professional entertainment career as a model after being discovered by a photographer in the early 1980s. Not only was she one of the first women of color to appear on the cover of Seventeen, she also booked spreads for huge magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan.

Like we said before, Whitney was well on her way to reaching what could have been elite 1980s/1990s supermodel status (think Beverly Johnson and Iman) as she was quickly becoming one of the most in-demand teen models, but she had bigger plans.

International Debut

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The cover of her first album Whitney Houston shows you exactly how she blended modeling and singing together with a stunning low haircut and modelesque pose. And if that wasn’t enough, Whitney literally came with a splash as the album featured some of the biggest hits of her career including: “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” and “Greatest Love of All.” Jeez. Talk about number ones.

Her second album, Whitney, was even better. Long brunette curls, pink dresses, leather jackets, and of course all of those beautiful gowns that she would wear during her jaw-dropping performances that would leave the audience speechless. If you’re wondering which tunes came from this era, those would be: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” and more.

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This time period also brought forth that legendary National Anthem performance that we still talk about today, with Whitney literally pulling up to the stage in a tracksuit, sneakers, and headband. The fact that her outfit was so chill is part of what makes the performance so iconic.

The Mid-1990s

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The early to mid 1990s would see Whitney going down the acting direction. The Bodyguard, which was released in 1992, would produce an accompanying soundtrack that would in turn produce the biggest hit of Whitney’s career, “I Will Always Love You” (which was originally sung by Dolly Parton), and the Academy Award nominated “I Have Nothing,” and “Run To You.”

Red lipstick, brown lip-liner, and pretty dresses were automatic staples in Whitney’s appearances during this time, along with classic 1990s trends such as knee length skirts and crop sweaters.

As we approached the latter half of the 1990s, Whitney would also star in the commercially successful films Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife, and Cinderella (which also starred R&B sensation Brandy).

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And Whitney was hands down the most goddess-like fairy godmother that we had ever seen. 

In 1998, Whitney released her critically acclaimed record My Love Is Your Love, which brought forth a more mature Whitney Houston.

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During this era, Whitney rocked a short blunt bob cut, and would adopt some of the futuristic metallic early 2000s trends such as loads of leather, with pops of silver and glitter (many of the early 2000s fashion was pulled from the 1970s and early 1980s, so this was really just Whitney paying a visit to her a younger self).

2000s

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As we got deeper into the 2000s, we saw Whitney doing what she did best —put on a beautiful gown and bring the house down that wondrous voice of hers. Here’s a few of our favorite 2000s looks.

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Whitney shall always be missed. Long live Whitney Houston. 

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