Transcript: Whitney Houston: 'I'm a Person Who Has Life'

She gave a rare interview to ABC News' Diane Sawyer in 2002.

ByABC News
February 13, 2012, 11:51 AM

— -- This rare interview appeared on a "Primetime" special on Whitney Houston Dec. 4, 2002.

Diane Sawyer: You know that as we sit here and talk ...

Whitney Houston: Yeah.

Sawyer: Everybody watching this . . .

Houston: Yeah.

Sawyer: Is going to be staring at you, physically.

Houston: Yeah.

Sawyer: And they're going to be saying, how thin is she now?

Houston: Yeah.

Sawyer: How, how many bones can we see? Is she sick? And how sick is she?

Houston: I'm not sick, Diane. I am not sick. Let's get that straight. I'm notsick. Okay? I've always been a thin girl. I'm not going to be fat, ever.Let's get that straight. Whitney is not going to be fat, ever. Okay?

Sawyer: The Michael Jackson VH-1 appearance. I'm going to show you thepicture.

Houston: Well, that's a bad shot.

Sawyer: Well, it may be a bad shot, but this is real. I mean, the, the bones.That's real.

Houston: Yeah, my bones, yeah. I'm, I'm 5'7" and thin. I can understand what youmean.

Sawyer: But that's not just thin.

Houston: No? What is it, Diane, tell me. Do you know?

Sawyer: It's scary thin.

Houston: I can believe what you, what you feel. I can believe that. But do youreally know? Do you really know?

Sawyer: No, you know.

Houston: Thank you.

Sawyer: Anorexia?

Houston: No way.

Sawyer: They've written it.

Houston: No way.

Sawyer: Bulimia.

Houston: No way.

Sawyer: That it's because of drugs.

Houston: No. Mm mm. Now, I'll grant you, I partied. But there were times when Iknow I was going through a lot of emotional stress and my eating habits were awful.

Sawyer: Whitney dying, crack rehab fails.

Houston: First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make toomuch money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. OK? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is whack.

Sawyer:Could you see the reaction on everybody's faces when you sang?

Houston: You know what I used to do, Diane? I would close my eyes like this, andI'd sing. I was so afraid when I'd sing. Then when I would open my eyes, the people would be what we call Holy Ghost fired out. They would be in such, spirit of praise, I think I knew then that it was an infectious thing that God had given me.

Houston: I'll never forget. I sang "Home," the song "Home."

'It Wasn't Always About the Drug'

Houston: No. It wasn't always about the drug. I would stay in my room for days,for days at times, just trying to get it together, to know what my nextphase was going to be.

Sawyer: In the mid-'90s, you said "I feel old."

Houston: Yeah, like I've been through a world, a lifetime of stuff.

Sawyer: And that it just wasn't any fun anymore.

Houston: Mm mm. No. I enjoy what I do. I love to sing, but it's just not funanymore.

Sawyer: Because?

Houston: People are different in the industry. It's about the money. It's about,get it fast.

Sawyer: Do you think you're not tough enough for this business?

Houston: Oh, I'm tough enough.

Sawyer: That was a quick answer.

Houston: I mean, I've lasted this long. You've got to be tough.

Sawyer: I want to ask you about the cancellations.

Houston: Did they tell you how many? Do you know how many? Look at my record, seethe concerts I've done, and see how many I've canceled in the 17 years of my career, and add it up.

Sawyer: But when you read the articles and people talk as if you're just impossible, 'cause you may show, you may not show.

Houston: Not true. Not true. Not true. Not true.

Sawyer: But there's some high profile things you didn't show for.

Houston: True.

Whitney Houston: On Not Showing Up to Clive Davis Tribute

Houston: I cried. I cried. They just all of a sudden just say one day he's not there. He's gone. That hurt, a lot.

Sawyer: But not showing up for Clive.

Houston: Oh, yeah, that was between him and I. We won't discuss it.

Sawyer: OK, the Academy Awards.

Houston: OK. I was fired from the gig. I didn't mind. I really didn't want to do it anyway. But I'm, I was past that, I'm past that, and it's over now.

Sawyer:Why were you fired?

Houston: Because I was not getting along with the guy that was directing the wholething. Who I've known since I was a kid.

Sawyer: I think you said laryngitis at the time. I don't think that's what you said. ...And that's all there was?

Houston: That I can remember.

Sawyer: People were saying that sometimes you just didn't, you didn't seem there.

Houston: Really?

Sawyer: Yeah.

Houston: Probably, that probably was it.

Emotional Turmoil and a Physical Reaction to Stress

Houston: I'm the kind of person, if, if I have a day that is nerve-wracking, or myweek has been bad or something's going down, I won't eat. Some people eat, I don't eat. And it shows in my physical frame.

Sawyer: Can I ask how much you weigh now?

Houston: Sure.

Sawyer: How much do you weigh now?

Houston: I ain't telling you.

Sawyer: I think I got just sucker-punched. Do you work at it now? To keep your weight up?

Houston: No. You know what?

Sawyer: Yeah, but if people are going to be looking, and people are going tobe pointing.

Houston: But they always have. From the moment I stepped out there. They alwayshave.

Sawyer: And looking back, the do you apologize, do you want them to . . .

Houston: Yeah, there are things I apologize for. But the things I apologize for, like my concert dates, those are things I apologize for, because the people really matter to me. They matter to me. And I know they came out to see me. And I apologize for that. I'll make it up to you.

'The Bodyguard' and Bobby Brown

Sawyer: You said you were scared to death on "The Bodyguard."

Houston: Scared to death. Terribly frightened. I mean, Kevin Costner. I said, whyme? He said, because you're the only one that can sing.

Houston: I'd wake up in the morning and I'd go, "I can't do this. This is too muchfor me. Bobby, I'm going to quit today, OK, I'm gonna quit." He said, "No way are you going to do that. If you quit now, you're going to blame me for the rest of my life. You're going to do this movie and you're going to do it well. You can't quit now. You can't turn back."

Houston: We did it. You just never pictured Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston together. Who did? Love is where you find it. It's where you find it, and I found it inhim, and he found it in me.

Houston: He was sexy, smooth, a gentleman, and a nice guy, contrary to popularbelief. A very nice guy. Treated me like a lady. We're, we're opposites in so many ways, but we're so much alike.

Sawyer: How are you alike?

Houston: He's family oriented, I am. And they didn't give us six minutes to last.We've gone 10 years.

Sawyer: On the way down here, a flight attendant came up to me and said: "I'd just like to ask her why she stays with him. Why doesn't she just leave him?"

Houston: Well, I'd like to ask her why she stays with her man. I'd like to know howher utopia is, then we can talk.

Sawyer: Has he ever hit you?

Houston: No, he's never hit me, no. I've hit him, in anger.

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown

Sawyer: Come back to the feeling that people have, that your husband is controlling, and that you can't get away from it any more than an abused wife can get away from it. Because you can't see it. It's a magnet that pulls you back.

Houston: The magnet that they're talking about is my love and my protection for him.I cannot say that there wasn't a time where, yeah, it was like that. You know? But I was new at it.

Sawyer: When?

Houston: Five, four, five years ago. You know? I was that wife that wanted to bethere, to make sure, you know, everything was cool and that, you know, no other women were around and, da-da-da-da-da-da, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba. This is my first love, remember. I had never really ever been in love with anybody like I was in love with Bobby, so I went through all the changes that any girl would go through, you know? I did. I did. But I'm older and I'm wiser now. I'm wiser about it. He can go away and I'm fine. I can go away and he's fine. It's not the Svengali tactic anymore.

Sawyer: Once somebody's done that, though, it is hard to let go.

Houston: I don't want to let go of him.

Sawyer: No, it's hard to let go of . . .

Houston: He doesn't want to let go of me.

Sawyer: A Svengali relationship.

Houston: I did with Clive.

Sawyer to Bobby Brown: True? Not true?

Houston: Sometimes.

Houston: But sometimes I am of him.

Sawyer: Come over here. Come over here. I can't do this anymore. You haveto come over here. But why is it so turbulent?

Bobby Brown: I think marriage is turbulent, you know? We're just in the public eye. You know? A lot of people, you know, that are married go through worse problems than us.

Sawyer: Have you ever hit her?

Brown: No, no, no, no, no, no. I wouldn't, I would never.

Houston: What does, what is this hitting me business?

Brown: I have four sisters. Four aunts, a mother. You know? Two daughters. Iwould never raise my hands in, in any kind of way to them. I love, I love the beauty of woman. And this is mine. No, no, no. Now, I admit, I'm, I'm, you know, I'm a wild guy. You know, sometimes, you know. I like all the attention. You know?

Sawyer: Does it bother you when she gets all the attention?

Brown: No, that doesn't, at all.

Sawyer: Yeah, but you're in the same business. How do you not compare?

Brown: No, but, but she's, she's a female. And no one can touch me as an entertainer. No one. You know, so I don't worry about that. I know no one can touch her as Whitney Houston. Her voice, no one can out-sing her, you know, no one can out-perform her, no one. So she has her part and I have my part, and you know, that's what makes it easy.

Houston: We share that.

The Drugs

Houston: And it's hard, because we're rock 'n' rollers, man, I mean . . .

Brown: That's the life we live here, you know?

Sawyer: Tell me about you and drugs.

Brown: Me and drugs, we're not friends. We're not friends at all. I used to, Iused to smoke a lot of marijuana, a lot.

Sawyer: But marijuana is still in your life?

Brown: Yeah, because I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm the type of person that I'm a veryhigh, high, high-strung person. I'm bipolar. It seems to help me fromgoing up and down.

Sawyer: You're diagnosed bipolar?

Brown: I'm, I'm diagnosed bipolar. And it helps me to keep, keep, keep the, keepa level in my life, you know?

Sawyer: But is there lithium? Did you get it treated?

Brown:I can't take lithium. Lithium has me like this.

Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston

Houston: He was catatonic. You know, it took him to, like, his spirit was dead, youknow.

Brown: Every now and then, you know, I smoke a joint. Every now and then, youknow. It's not an everyday thing. It's maybe every other day. But it's not an everyday thing. But it, it, it keeps, it keeps, it keeps me calm.

Sawyer: What about other drugs?

Brown: No. No. I never have. Never have and never will. That's, that's anotherthing that used to get me so mad. I heard about . . .

Sawyer: Yeah, they said you tested for cocaine.

Brown: But I tested, I tested for, I tested for a, a substance like cocaine, whichcan be anything. It could be an aspirin. It could be a valium. It could be anything. But it was not cocaine in my system. And this is what I know.

Houston: Hey, baby.

Brown:It has been 10 years since we've been married, right? They didn't think we was going to make it.

Houston: I've learned so much from him as an artist.

Sawyer: What have you learned?

Houston: How to move, to be more fluid.

Sawyer: Free.

Houston: Free. You know what I mean? Don't be so constrained. Nothing's perfect.Nothing's perfect.

Sawyer: And this is forever?

Houston: That's what I said. That's what I said. Didn't you?

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll

Houston: My business is sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll. You know? I mean, my friends,we have a good time. But as you get older, you get wiser. You know? You stop a lot of the kid stuff. I had no time to grow up, had no time to party. I didn't even date in my, date in my 20s. It was rough. It was rough. I think I kind of reverted back as I got older. And I said, well I'm just gonna party, you know? It was kind of a rebel in me, you know?

Sawyer: Did you think how dangerous it was?

Houston: No. I wasn't, I wasn't like shooting heroin or anything.

Sawyer: This says $730,000 drug habit. This is a headline.

Houston: Come on, 730? I wish. No. I wish that was making that money off of me,you could share it with me. No, no way. I want to see the receipts. From the drug dealer that I bought $730,000 worth of drugs from. I want to see the receipts.

Sawyer: Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana? Is it cocaine? Is it pills?

Houston: It has been. At times.

Sawyer: All?

Houston: At times.

Sawyer: If you had to name the devil for you, the biggest devil among them?

Houston: That would be me. It's my deciding, it's my heart, it's what I want. Andwhat I don't want. Nobody makes me do anything I don't want to do. It's my decision. So the biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy. And that's how I have to deal with it.

Sawyer: Do you think of yourself as an addict?

Houston: I am addicted to a few things.

Sawyer: Like?

Houston: Making love. I don't like to think of myself addicted. I like to think of, I had a bad habit, which can be broken.

Whitney Houston's Mother Intervenes

Houston: And she gets in my door, "There's some people I want you to meet." I said,"Mommy, you've raised me with the love, and with God. Now, if I can't make it with you and with the love of God, I'm not putting my, my, my life in someone else's hands. I'm not doing it. I'm not doing it. And nobody else, I don't care where they're from, what counsel service, or whateverthey're from, if you did this to me, I will go and leave the country, take [daughter] Krissy with me, and we'll just go. And I was very serious. And she said, "Everybody leave, please. Wait a minute. Because she's serious."

Whitney Houston: 'I Partied'

Sawyer: But tell me about you that night. First of all, had you been partying? Is that part of it?

Houston: Was I, I can't say it was like an everyday kind of thing, yeah. I hung outwith some friends and I partied.

Sawyer: Did it seem to ease the pressure? Did it quiet the voice in your head?

Houston: Seemed.

Sawyer: Seemed?

Houston: Seemed, yes.

Photos taken that night showed Houston, skin and bones, even though the tape of the show that was broadcast on TV showed her fattened up. Pounds had been added to her frame.

Sawyer: Did you see that they took electronic devices and changed it for the air?

Houston: They did it for me and a few other people.

Sawyer: Other people, too? Other people, yes? Because that sparked that whole thing, when the headlines were saying "Whitney is dying."

Houston: No. "Whitney was dead."

Sawyer: How scared did you get?

Houston: Scared. When they said that I had died, I did, I changed my mind. Ichanged my mind. Yep. Because I didn't want to look like the rest of them. I didn't want to be like them. It frightened me. I don't ever want to be in the realm of, where I'm caught in a mold and I can't get out. Never. That's over. I'm beyond it.

Sawyer: Do you think you came close?

Sawyer: I think as close as anybody, I think, can get. I know folks who have comecloser. But that's as close as I want to be. That's as close as I think it gets.

Sawyer: And how sure are you that those bad days you talked about are behindyou?

Sawyer: I know that I'm on the right path, because I'm back home where I started,in here. I can't tell you it's all going to be perfect, Diane, and I can't say ...

Sawyer: Yeah, because every, everybody says it's day by day, day by day.

Houston: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sawyer: But now do you say, not at all, or do you say, I can . . .

Houston: Well, I'm not going to tell you that. I can tell you that I am not self-destructive. I'm not a person who wants to die. I'm a person who has life, who wants to live. And I always have. And I wouldn't mistake it for anything else other than that.

Sawyer: Are you strong enough to do that now?

Houston: I think so.

Sawyer: And not let it get you?

Houston: Mm hmm. Yes, I am.

Sawyer: 'Cause most people . . .

Houston: I pray every day that I am. I'm not the strongest every day, but I'm not theweakest, either. And I won't break. And I won't break.

Sawyer: Is today a good day?

Houston: Today's a great day. It's a blessed day.

Sawyer: No temptations today?

Houston: I have a few temptations, but it's not about drugs, it's about kicking ass,but, you know.

Sawyer: Mine?

Houston: No. This is a blessing.

ABC News asked how hard would it be for her to change her life when drug use is so close in those she loves -- not only her husband but her two brothers have each been caught with cocaine and marijuana. Even her cousin Dionne Warwick was stopped at an airport with marijuana.

Sawyer: Your cousin

Houston: Jesus.

Sawyer: Your cousin did.

Houston: Very isolated incidents. One had nothing to do with the other.

Houston:I talk to people who have been through rehab, and a lot of people that comethrough it, come through it with God. They tell you in a rehab that 90 percent of you are gonna return. That's not nice. That's not nice. So what I did is I looked in my soul to see what was missing.

Sawyer: So for the people out there who say we want to help, we want to helpbuild a barrier between her and drugs, what do you want them to pray for?

Whitney Houston: 'Leave the Drugs Alone'

Houston: Don't pray about the drugs. Leave the drugs alone.

Sawyer: Why? Why?

Houston: Don't, don't, pray for me, as a person, for my soul, that I'm stronger. And man, I don't care what anybody else says or did or what they claimed I was, I know I'm a child of God, and I know He loves me. Jesus loves me, this I know. Yeah.

Losing Friends

Houston: There isn't competition. There's no competition. That's my husband. Ifyou want to be my friend, let's remain friends. If you can't handle that,sorry.

Houston: [to former friend Robyn Crawford] And I love ya.

Sawyer: Your father's filing suit against you, $100 million. Do you feel betrayed?

Houston: It hurts. They'll never get $100 million out of me. I know that.

Sawyer: But they claim that you haven't paid them for things they did, like ...

Houston: They were never hired. But I won't get into it.

Sawyer: Can you talk to him? What has he said to you?

Houston: My father is, 81, very sick. His health is failing. Somebody is, who myfather's associated with, has put fear in his heart, as if he's not my father and I'm not his daughter.

Sawyer: Do you still love him?

Houston: Absolutely. He gave me life. Before all of this, there were years that Ican't forget. The bad part about it is that it's about money, and that really sucks. That's, that hurts more than anything.

Sawyer: When you think it's the dad who dressed you and walked you down theaisle, what are you thinking?

Houston: That moment. Can I stop, please?

Sawyer: Sure.

Houston: Thanks. I'll be back.

Sawyer: Sure.

Meeting Daughter Bobbi Kristina "Krissy" Houston

Sawyer: Do you like to sing?

Krissy Houston: Yes.

Sawyer: Would you like it?

Krissy Houston: Yes, and I want to be like my mommy and daddy.

Houston: Early in the morning, she and I would have private time together whennobody's around. And I'll sneak up to her room, about 6:00, and I'll get in the bed with her and I'll say, OK, we gotta get up in a little while. And I'll rub her stomach, wake the stomach up, wake up your back, wake up the mind, wake up the, you know, body. And talk.

Krissy Houston: You know, the perfect thing is like, on, like, a Sunday or something likethat, when we like, like, sit and, you know, we get to watch TV or like, listen to gospel music or have breakfast together.

Sawyer: And what do you like about your mom's voice?

Krissy Houston:I like her voice because it's really nice and it makes me go to sleep.

Sawyer: She sings you lullabies?

Houston: I love you, I love you.

Sawyer: Ten years from now, give me the perfect life for Whitney Houston.

Houston: Retired. Sitting, looking at my daughter grow up, become a great woman ofGod, grandchildren.

Sawyer: And perhaps, some measure of peace for Whitney Houston, a woman whoseethereal talent is matched only by the uncertainties of her all too humanlife.

Houston: This is my time, now. You know, love me or leave me. But love me, 'causeI love you.