Oprah Winfrey's interview with Bobbi Kristina Brown, broadcast last night on OWN's Oprah's Next Chapter, was the antithesis of O's 2009, revealing sit-down with Brown's mother, Whitney Houston. Bobbi Kris's was conducted while standing, perhaps to feel more casual. The ultimate effect was one of discomfort, though, with a jittery Bobbi Kristina playing with her hair throughout the interview. Perhaps this was one subject where Winfrey's magic -- relaxing her interviewee better than truth serum and a magic lasso combined -- just wasn't going to happen. Broadcast exactly a month after Houston's death, Brown was still shaken, and who could blame her?
You can't push a kid in mourning, and one can only imagine the extent of the behind-the-scenes demands put on Winfrey in exchange for Bobbi Kristina's participation. Almost everything, it seemed, was off limits. Topics like Bobbi Kris's back-to-back hospitilizations (on the days of and after her mother's death), her supposed suicidal tendencies, her documented drug use and the reportedly imminent rehab stint weren't broached. Instead, we learned that Bobbi Kristina still hears her mother's voice and considers light flickerings in her house the work of her mother's ghost. She stated an agenda speaking publicly for the first since her mother's death: to let the world know what an amazing spirit her mother was. This didn't exactly accomplish that or much of anything (at least not Bobbi Kris's segment). I don't think it was "too soon" to try to talk to Bobbi Kristina, as some people have charged (as if such a concept exists in our day and age!), but I do think that she's not together enough to have any perspective. That's fine. Save it for the memoir, girl.
Bobbi Kristina revealed an interest in singing and acting, as we already knew. "I gotta carry on her legacy," is how she explained it. Where talent and career path are concerned, that is astronomical ambition. But in a way, Bobbi Kris is already carrying out her mother's legacy. She's struggling publicly, like her mother, and also like her mother, she has a legion of strangers behind her and rooting for her. I don't know what's in store for Bobbi Kristina's celebrity, but if she turns out happy and safe and lives a long, full life, she will have succeeded. Here's hoping.
Bobbi Kristina said she couldn't yet listen to her mother's music. That's in contrast to how the rest of the nation (and many parts of the world, I presume) mourned Whitney Houston's death. Post February 11, her sales skyrocketed, "I Will Always Love You" reentered the Top 5 on the Hot 100 and for a few weeks, the woman's voice was once again inescapable. When I interviewed TLC's Chilli a few years ago, I asked her if it was comforting to her and T-Boz that the rest of the world was grieving along with them over the death of their friend and bandmate Left Eye, as so many people were touched by the work they did with her. She told me that on the contrary, it made things more difficult becuase there was no option to grieve privately. Wherever they went, they were reminded of their loss and implicitly asked to discuss it by seemingly well-meaning people. For someone who found herself in an atypical existence through no pursuit of her own, things have to be even stranger and more complicated for Bobbi Kristina. Just getting through that Winfrey interview and saying the little that she did while remaining standing the entire time seems like an accomplishment.
The stuff with Whitney's brother, Gary, and his wife, Pat (also her manager and best friend) wasn't much more enlightening. Who knows if Pat was telling the truth when she said that at what would turn out ot be the end of her life, Whitney's drug days were over, as far as she knew, and that she was on an upswing. Pat seemed sincere, and certainly at other points in the interview, her candor was apparent (especially regarding her concerns over Whitney's involvement with Ray J as well as her confirmation that Whitney and Stacy Francis indeed had words at Kelly Price's Grammy party). But she also could have been attempting to spruce up Whitney's legacy by presenting a rosy picture. Maybe at this point, no one can the truth, or at least the whole truth.
I remain thirsty for it, though. It's very strange to be so moved by the death of someone I didn't know. I had a dream on Friday night that I was watching a just-taped interview with Whitney. She was happy and laughing and sharp and acting irreverent, like the rock star that she was. I felt such relief and I didn't know why. I then realized that my brain was contradicting the reality of the past month. The disappointment was worth the momentary flash of joyful deceit (in this case, the ride really was worth the fall). Whitney left behind so many of those moments, too. They're terrific places of refuge.