She didn’t choose to be famous. Bobbi Kristina Brown was born into stardom by way of her parents, the iconic Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.
On Sunday, after months of lying in a medically induced coma and ending up in hospice, the 22-year-old died. In January, almost three years to the date that her mom accidentally drowned in a bathtub, Bobbi Kristina was found in the bathtub of her Georgia home, not breathing. She had been in the hospital and the subject of tabloid fodder since.
In a statement to “Entertainment Tonight,” her family thanked everyone for their love and support these past few months. But I wonder, where was the love before all of this?
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Thanks to our culture, so caught up in the fame game and schadenfreude, we ogle celebrity children. There’s North West, a toddler and already a beloved fashion icon. And there is Blue Ivy Carter, whom the Internet decided to troll, labeling her beautiful natural hair ugly when she was just a little over a year old. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s gender identity is often debated, and I remember a collective parenting pause when Suri Cruise wore little baby heels at the age of 3.
Bobbi Kristina was also a target of those flashing lights and unforgiving comments. She was Whitney Houston’s cherished baby and Bobby Brown’s namesake, often appearing on stage with her mom. Ten years ago, when her parents’ destructive relationship became very public on the reality series “Being Bobby Brown,” questions about their daughter came up, too. Some wondered if she was the parent in her family. People talked about how she looked, wondered about her future and pondered if she would live the ups or downs of her parents’ careers and life choices.
In 2008, the National Enquirer alleged that Bobbi Kristina attempted to slash her wrists after trying to stab her mama during an argument. In 2011, pictures of Bobbi Kristina allegedly snorting coke went viral. A year later, old footage of her hitting a bong went live. Bloggers said she was following in her parents’ footsteps. Because that’s helpful.
When her mother died, Bobbi Kristina had a breakdown. When Oprah Winfrey interviewed the Houston family just one month later, Bobbi Kristina was there, grieving for the world to see. It wouldn’t take long for the family to get its own Lifetime show.
“If you had any question as to whether reality TV was a bad place to mourn, look no further than the joyless ‘The Houstons: On Our Own,’” Gawker noted. “There is little indication that Bobbi Kristina is headed for anything but ruin, as the 19-year-old frequently drinks on camera, stumbles around like it’s more than alcohol that is inebriating her and is attached to the side of her fiance (or something) Nick Gordon, who’s not exactly her brother but was ‘unofficially adopted’ by Whitney at age 12.”
This need to know it all and judge it too has leaked over into real life, too. People snap photos of kids and post them online with cruel captions. It happens to unassuming adults, too. Social media has created a community of critics, ready to pounce on celebrities and everyday people alike, for their fashion choices and weight, their hair and life experience.
Last year, everything about Bobbi Kristina was up for discussion on social media: her inheritance, her relationship with Nick (Nick is being sued for the alleged physical abuse of Bobbi Kristina as well as stealing from her account), her thin body. That’s how we treat everybody, not as humans but as topics to discuss and things to tear down.
On Sunday night, Dionne Warwick, famed singer and cousin to Whitney Houston, talked about Bobbi Kristina on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live.”
“She was a sweetheart, and she will be missed, that’s for sure,” the singer said. “And she was a good girl. … She was a good little girl, she really was.”
Did we ever see her that way? In our world, we celebrate the good when it’s gone instead of lifting one another up while we’re here to receive it. Imagine the difference we could make if we treated love like something worth giving over hate and hollow opinions.