Actor Naomi Ackie recounts portraying Whitney Houston posed many challenges

Her natural inclination led her to take on the role, and it’s not difficult to see why. In the new biopic, British actor Naomi Ackie portrays the legendary singer Whitney Houston.

So, I’m not a singer like Whitney, I don’t sound like her and I don’t look like her. I’m aware that there are a lot of things I need to fill in the gaps for. I just knew from the beginning that I was aiming really high, while being aware of some of my limitations. That’s Ackie Naomi.

MARTÍNEZ: In an early scene, Ackie is listening to a sample song with Stanley Tucci, who plays legendary record executive Clive Davis.


ACKIE: (Singing in the manner of Whitney Houston) How can I ascertain if he genuinely loves me? I utter a prayer with every heartbeat.

I could manipulate the chorus, increase the pitch at that point, and extract more from it.

STANLEY TUCCI: (Portraying the character of Clive Davis) Indeed, however, that is not a valid reason to compose a song. It must possess an appealing aspect.

ACKIE: (In the role of Whitney Houston) A catch?

TUCCI: (In the role of Clive Davis) Yes.

ACKIE: (Channeling Whitney Houston) I’ll give it a try.

Ackie was born in Houston in 1991, at the height of her fame, and she really had to do her homework. The film includes some of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits, using her voice for the singing parts.

I had to go through your way to find my version of Whitney, and it’s not acting, you know, but – I can somehow replace every word with a different expression, and if you know, I can find all her interviews, you know, like trying to correlate, like, you know, I definitely went through a long period where I was in a panic: ACKIE.

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To somewhat depict that, how you desired to sort of unravel, grants you a significant amount of flexibility, that for you, I perpetually sense that the segments where you portray a remarkably youthful Whitney, pre-celebrity, MARTÍNEZ.

In later years, I had seen that Whitney had played a foundation role in reducing certain aspects of aging. I had been doing research and work related to movement and accent, and I knew a fair amount about the research that had been done before me. What interested me the most was the idea of focusing on the concept of youthful confidence, which can be challenging to maintain when life throws its hardest blows. The idea of hopefulness and youth was really what I wanted to explore. It’s about being familiar with the things that are more common in younger years, like the progress depicted in the film Whitney. And, of course, this all took place in New York, where I had friends. One hundred percent.

Whitney Houston was known for her love of tracksuits and casual attire. However, she also enjoyed wearing pants and high heels. She had a feminine and girly style, and many saw her as the princess of America. This was the perception of MARTÍNEZ.

She was someone who really connected with people, and she was there for her friends and family. She had a true nature and behaved well, making her the perfect image of a girl who doesn’t make any wrong footings. However, this image puts a dangerous pressure on her to be extremely masculine, which is something that many Black women have been subjected to. Black women are very sensitive to the ideas of femininity, and it’s important to understand that. Being interested in a Black woman shouldn’t be about selling a traditional sense of femininity, but rather appreciating her for who she truly is, regardless of how she is perceived. Yeah, that’s right. ACKIE:

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MARTÍNEZ: There’s a moment in the movie where Whitney is in a radio studio being interviewed by a disc jockey.


You’re not a true artist, you’re a sellout – your music and common criticism of your character (As an unidentified actor).

ACKIE: (As Whitney Houston) If I’m not a African-American artist, what am I?

UNIDENTIFIED PERFORMER: (In the role of the character) You inform me.

It knows no limits. Music is not a shade to me. I possess the skill of singing. Observe, I am unfamiliar with singing in the style of Black, and I am also unfamiliar with singing in the style of white. ACKIE: (In the role of Whitney Houston)

When considering MARTÍNEZ, it’s hard to imagine how much pressure she didn’t have to endure in order to win. She may not seem like she can win, but she’s putting herself in a position where she’s trying everything to be everything to everybody.

Sometimes, Whitney may feel that people potentially have a sense of ownership over her, making her feel controlled. It’s like when you’re in the business world, you know? It can be insane to think that people should dictate how you should feel or make you feel safe. But why should there be limits on expressing yourself or doing anything, really? Especially when it comes to singing, I know that you are capable of anything when you put yourself in Whitney’s shoes. I can’t stress enough how being subjugated to criticism can cause a lot of negativity. Maybe in other areas, your interests and certain behaviors are meant to be perceived in a certain way, whether it’s good or bad. But it’s all a fallacy, a lie that you’re told and signposted, like your heritage or culture. When you grapple with the idea of who you are and what defines you, I know it’s something that I’ve personally struggled with.

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MARTÍNEZ: Yes. It’s the brand versus the individual – correct? – Because….

ACKIE: Yeah.

Houston Whitney, both as a person and as a brand, was experiencing an internal and private struggle. It appears that Whitney, like many other performers, was trying to create a brand that fans could connect with and support.

She still deserves compassion and understanding as a human being. Despite earning a lot of money and selling many records, it doesn’t matter because it is disheartening to see how ill she was, especially in certain places towards Whitney. I have seen sketches of her where she made fun of her worst moments in life, and I have also read some tabloid articles about her. I know that it is real cruelty, and I think that the media quickly turned against Whitney when she suddenly became a vulnerable person in the public eye.

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