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Whitney Houston's mother on star's tragic death, rumoured lesbian romance and her fears for Bobbi K

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It has been nearly a year since Whitney Houston passed away, the singer discovered unresponsive in a bath at the Beverly Hilton Hotel the night before the Grammys.

She was 48 when she died - a coroner ruling due to accidental drowning, with heart disease and chronic cocaine abuse listed as contributory factors.

Now, in a new memoir, the singer's mother, Cissy Houston, is opening up about her daughter's tragic death, her struggle with substance abuse and her concerns her 19-year-old granddaughter, Bobbi Kristina, might follow in her footsteps.

Mrs Houston, 79, spoke to People magazine's Elizabeth McNeil ahead of the publication's release of exclusive excerpts from the matriarch's new memoir, Remembering Whitney.

Questions about what she could have done differently, she reveals, plague her.

'Was I a good mother?' she asks. 'I still wonder if I could have saved her somehow. But there's no book written on how to be a parent. You do the best you can.'

In excerpt from the book, Mrs Houston recalls how she answered her phone at 6pm on February 11, 2012 and heard screams.

It was her son, Gary, hysterically crying about his sister. He told her she was dead.

'And that was the moment my whole world shattered,' Mrs Houston writes.

The Houston family matriarch recalls how she began tutoring her daughter with singing lessons as early as age 12 at their East Orange, New Jersey home.

'I taught her everything she knew... Nobody could have seen how big she'd be,' she told McNeil.

Not long after Whitney began singing, she was discovered by a fashion photographer and featured on the cover of Seventeen magazine.

Mrs Houston tells of how her little girl earned the nickname Nippy, after a mischievous comicbook character. But she would not learn until years later Whitney began partying around that time.

She writes: 'I had no idea about Nippy's "partying". And the truth is, back then I didn't really want to know about it.'

While trying to make a name for herself as a recording artist, Whitney met Robyn Crawford.

The women became close friends in the late 1970s, and after Whitney scored her second number one album with 1987's Whitney, Robyn moved into the singer's Menham, New Jersey home.

Rumours swirled about something romantic between the pair, but it's not a subject Mrs Houston cares to address - although she states clearly she wasn't a fan of her daughter's good friend.

'I know nothing about that. I didn't want her with my daughter,' Mrs Houston told McNeil.

She expands in an excerpt from her book: 'There was something about the way Robyn carried herself, a kind of arrogance, that I didn't like.'

Robyn, she admits, was one of the first to alert her to Whitney's drug use.

She writes candidly of a meeting between them in the late 1980s: 'She told me that Nippy was using drugs, that they both were on occasion, but that "Nippy likes it a little too much"'.

Mrs Houston confronted her daughter, who told her Robyn was overreacting, McNeil reports.

Her daughter met Bobby Brown in 1989, at the Soul Train Awards.

The couple married three years later and had their only child, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993. She admits even know she is worried about the 19-year-old, who she doesn't often get to see, but is 'trying to make sure she doesn't (follow the same path)'.

At the start of her daughter's relationship with the R&B badboy, Mrs Houston expressed her concerns to Whitney - she didn't think Bobby was good for her but 'they seemed smitten'. Looking back, she has few kind words for the former New Edition star.

'He didn't help her, that's for damn sure,' she told McNeil.

The relationship, she recalls, turned abusive and Whitney's drug abuse spiraled.

In 2000, Mrs Houston flew to Los Angeles for an intervention, intent on sending her to rehab, McNeil reports. Whitney convinced her mother to move in to her Los Angeles home, where she could keep an eye on her instead.

'But that house was so big that Nippy would just lock herself up somewhere and not come out. And because I couldn't force her to stop, I eventually just moved on back home,' she recalls.

In 2005, Mrs Houston flew to Atlanta, where Whitney and Bobby had moved - told by her son the singer was in trouble.

She recalls with horror the scene when she walked in the couple's home: 'The things I saw sent a chill right through me. Somebody had been spraypainting the walls, painting big glaring eyes and strange faces. They were evil eyes, staring you like a threat. And there was a big framed photo of Nippy, Bobby and Krissi - but someone had cut Nippy's head right out of it.

'I saw her briefly, up at the top of the stairs, and she looked like someone I didn't know.'

Mrs Houston was granted a court order and forced her daughter into rehab. Whitney would divorce Bobby in 2006.

'She finally got rid of him, but it was too late,' she told McNeil, making it clear: 'I don't blame Bobby for introducing Nippy to drugs.'

Mrs Houston last saw her daughter on December 26, 2011 - six-and-a-half weeks before her death.

Whitney was discovered face down in a scalding bath by her assistant, who had left her for just 45 minutes while she went out to run errands. When paramedics arrived, the singer was unresponsive.

An 'acute dose' of cocaine was found in her system as well as a cocktail of other drugs, including marijuana and prescription sedatives.

Mrs Houston still questions what she could have done for her daughter to have had a different ending.

'She's put on her chirpy little-girl voice, and to my ears she sounded all right. If there's any one thing I regret about our relationship, that's it: for whatever reason, she never could talk to me about anything that upset her, unless she was really in trouble. And that's something I'll never get over,' she writes.

'Since my daughter died, I've struggled with so many things,' she continues. I'm still so angry - at Nippy, at the world, at myself. Should I have done things differently? She was a person whose life and voice touched millions of people. I'm as proud as any mother could be about her daughter, but I would trade every last bit of it to have my baby back.'

Mrs Houston also recalls how her daughter dreamed at turning her back on fame, and her larger-than-life career.

'I later learned that Nippy seriously considered walking away from it all after Krissi was born. One time, she was looking out a window and she said, "You know, I never asked for this madness. I couldn't have imagined it."'

She told McNeil: 'All she wanted to be was a normal person'.


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