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Born to a musical family (her mother was gospel singer Cissy Houston, pictured here with her daughter in 1983; Aretha Franklin was Whitney's godmother, and Dionne Warwick a cousin), she sings backup at age 15 for her mother on Chaka Kahn's hit ''I'm Every Woman.'' Some 13 years later, Whitney would make her own version of the song a chart hit once again.
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The beautiful young teen finds early success as a model, appearing in commercials as well as in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and on the cover of Seventeen — one of the first African-Americans to be showcased on the magazine.
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After impressing Arista Records head Clive Davis with her raw talent, Whitney is signed to the label and releases her self-titled debut. ''Saving All My Love for You,'' ''How Will I Know,'' and ''Greatest Love of All'' all go to No. 1, establishing her as a bona fide star. The album would sell more than 25 million copies worldwide.
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Her second album, Whitney, is no sophomore slump — it yields the hits ''I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),'' ''Didn't We Almost Have It All,'' ''So Emotional,'' and ''Where Do Broken Hearts Go,'' all of which reached the top spot on the Billboard charts.
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Houston uses her budding fame to bring attention to the anti-apartheid movement and African-American causes. She performs at a 70th birthday tribute for Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium in London (pictured) and a Madison Square Garden concert in New York to benefit the United Negro College Fund. She also records ''One Moment in Time'' for the 1988 Summer Olympics, which becomes a Top Five hit.
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In the midst of the first Gulf War, the singer appears at Super Bowl XXV and, backed by the Florida Orchestra, performs a stirring, much acclaimed rendition of the national anthem.
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The singer marries Bobby Brown and scores huge hits with both the movie The Bodyguard, in which she stars opposite Kevin Costner, and its accompanying soundtrack, which features her megahit cover of Dolly Parton's ''I Will Always Love You.''
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Houston stars as TV producer Savannah Jackson in the box office hit Waiting to Exhale, and secures yet another hit with the movie's spin-off single ''Exhale (Shoop Shoop).''
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Houston hits the big screen in The Preacher's Wife and lends her famed vocals to the movie's accompanying soundtrack. The 15-track album spent weeks on the Billboard charts and is still heralded as one of the best-selling gospel albums of all time years later.
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The singer releases My Love Is Your Love, her first album in eight years. The collection features contributions from Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Missy Elliott, and another clutch of hit singles including ''It's Not Right But It's Okay'' and ''My Love Is Your Love.''
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In May, a Greatest Hits collection arrives in stores. The 2-CD set is separated into one disc of ballads and another of more uptempo material and, in addition to her previous chart successes, boasts newly recorded duets with George Michael, Enrique Iglesias, and Canadian singer Deborah Cox.
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Houston continues her family life with then-husband Bobby Brown and daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, whom she welcomed in March 1993. She also releases singles such as "Try It on My Own" and "Love That Man" off of her Just Whitney... album.
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Whitney Houston files to end her marriage to Bobby Brown in the fall. The couple had been married 14 years.
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In August, Houston releases I Look To You, which moves more than 200,000 copies in its first week. It contains what would be her final hit, ''Million Dollar Bill.''
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A demure, introspective Houston gives a heart-breaking interview to Oprah Winfrey on the season premiere of her show. Houston admits: ''At that time in my life , I was going through such trauma.... I thought that was enough for me. I had the money. I had the cars. I had the house. Had the husband. Had the kid. And none of it was really that fulfilling. For a time, I was happy. I was happy, but I needed that joy. I needed my joy back. I needed that peace that passes all understanding.''
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Nearly 25 years after its initial release, Houston drops Whitney Houston – The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, celebrating her debut album. She wraps her final world tour, Nothing But Love World Tour.
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Houston spent the end of the year filming Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 film. It had been scheduled to be released Aug. 10. She played the mother of Jordin Sparks' titular aspiring singer.