Whitney Houston was affectionally referred to as “The Voice” throughout her career, but the icon was also a pretty great actress, too. Today, on what would have been her 49th birthday — and one week before the release of her final film, Sparkle — we took a look back at Houston’s TV and film appearances throughout her career. Surprisingly, for a woman with such charisma, beauty and confidence on-screen, we’re surprised at just how few roles she took on.
Head below to travel through Whitney’s journey through Hollywood. (Note: we’re just focusing on Whitney as an actress — which means we’re skipping any film and TV appearances where she played herself. Or whatever version of herself was on Being Bobby Brown.)
Gimme A Break (1984)
Whitney, at the young age of 21, guest-starred as Rita in one episode of the NBC sitcom. Her self-titled debut album would be released the following year.
The Bodyguard (1992)
Whitney, now 29, lands her first starring role in a film, playing the famous singer Rachel Marron, love interest to Kevin Costner’s titular bodyguard. The film would become a blockbuster and boast one of the most successful albums of all time with its corresponding soundtrack. Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You”, played at the conclusion of the film, would become her signature song, while “Run To You” and “I Have Nothing” were nominated for Best Original Song at the 65th Academy Awards.
Waiting To Exhale (1995)
Whitney returned to the big screen three years later, playing Savannah Jackson, a woman hoping her lover will leave his wife, in the film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s book. Houston also contributed three songs to the soundtrack, including the chart-topping hit “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”.
The Preacher’s Wife (1996)
Whitney played opposite Denzel Washington in this Penny Marshall-directed romantic Christmas movie, about an angel that comes down to help save a preacher’s relationship with his wife. Houston contributed several songs to the soundtrack, which went on to become the best-selling gospel album of all time. Her mother, Cissy Houston, appears with her daughter on the traditional number “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”
Saturday Night Live (1996)
Whitney appeared as the musical guest, but let her sense of humor shine through by showing up in a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch, too.
Whitney’s acting career was on a roll, as she signed up to play the Fairy Godmother to Brandy‘s Cinderella in this TV movie musical, featuring music by Rodgers & Hammerstein. (Watch the full TV movie on YouTube.)
Whitney returns to the silver screen in a remake of the 70s movie musical of the same name, playing Emma Williams, mother of Jordin Sparks‘ titular character and her two sisters who dream of making it as a girl group in the 1950s. The film will be released on August 17, six months after Houston’s death at the age of 48.