Netflix just dropped a new, amazing film called Beauty. It revolves around Beauty, a young African-American singer whose career took off while she was still quite young, and she struggled to maintain being herself among the requests of her record label and her hidden gay relationship. It sounds very familiar to me, so I wondered, is Netflix’s Beauty a true story?
While ‘Beauty’ never explicitly stated it’s based on a true story, there are many striking similarities with the life and work of Whitney Houston, one of the best, most popular singers of all time. Beauty’s and Whitney’s lives, families, and relationships are all too similar to be coincidental.
So, Beauty isn’t exactly a true story, per se, but it is certainly inspired by the life and work of Whitney Houston. Even if everything was coincidental, there’s one smoking gun that clearly suggests that Beauty is inspired by Whitney. Let’s dig into all the striking similarities between the fictional character and the real-life singer.
Early Life In New Orleans
In the movie, Beauty and her family live in New Jersey in the 1980s, where Beauty starts her music career quite early in life. Whitney Houston was also born and raised in New Jersey – Newark, to be precise. That’s where she made her first steps towards a singing career, as she sang in the church choir, where her talents were first discovered.
Beauty had a similar path, and both their families were there to help push that talent to new heights.
This is the first striking similarity between Beauty and Whitney that’s a bit harder to explain as a coincidence. Beauty came from a regular, mid-class family, and her mother was a singer. So, she was the one who trained Beauty to elevate her voice to another level.
That’s exactly what Cissy Houston did with Whitney. You see, Cissy was a gospel singer in New Jersey, and she trained Whitney to sing from a very young age. Houston became a soloist in the church choir when she was just eleven years old.
Also, Beauty had two brothers, Cain and Abel. As it turns out, one of them – Cain – was actually her half-brother, born to another father. Well, the same thing happened in the Houston family.
Whitney has two brothers, Michael Houston and Gary Garland. Michael is the older brother who became a songwriter and had the same parents as Whitney: Cissy and John Russell Houston. Gary, on the other hand, is a former NBA basketball player and Whitney’s half-brother. Cissy is Gary’s mother, while his father is Freddie Garland.
The story between Beauty and Whitney is strikingly similar so far – a singer mother who taught them to sing from an early age, living in New Jersey with a brother and a half-brother. But, there’s more.
Beauty signed her very first label deal when she was quite young. Not only that – she signed with a very high-profile label. And she could’ve signed even earlier, but Beauty’s mother was adamant about letting her grow a few more years before stepping into such a huge spotlight.
The same thing happened with Whitney Houston. She signed her first label with a very high-profile label quite young. However, even before she signed, there were at least two other labels trying to get her to sign, offering deals left and right.
But, Cissy Houston wouldn’t let Whitney sign a deal for at least a few more years to get her prepared for the harsh reality of being a star in the music industry. Every single move you make is under scrutiny, and it can be very challenging for such a young woman.
That’s another thing that Beauty and Whitney have in common. They were pressured by their labels, and the industry in general, to be someone they’re not, and to maintain a certain image about themselves, whether they liked it or not.
The most crucial part of that image was the relationships they had to hide – and eventually, end.
So, in the movie, we see that Beauty has a queer relationship with Jasmine, a girl she met when they were still teens. However, Beauty’s family does not support Beauty’s relationship with Jasmine in any way, believing it can only hurt her career, which is up on the rise and ready to explode.
Jasmine and Beauty then move to New York and start living together, but they still have to keep everything a secret. Well, Whitney Houston’s story was quite similar, albeit not quite the same.
Whitney had a close friend named Robyn Crawford. The two met as teenagers and shared a very tight bond. As Whitney’s star was rising, Robyn was with her every step of the way, even working as Houston’s assistant. Rumors started spreading that the two were romantically involved, and both of them denied the allegations, saying they were nothing more than friends.
As it turns out, the rumors were true, to begin with. Robyn sat down with the Guardian years after Whitney passed away and revealed that the relationship she had with Houston was “intimate, on all levels.” Crawford also wrote a book called A Song For You, where she talked about her relationship with Whitney in detail.
She said that their sexual, intimate relationship didn’t last long, though. As Whitney’s career took off and she signed her first label deal, the singer sat down with Robyn and told her that they couldn’t be intimate anymore, as it would only be used against them.
After that, the two remained friends for almost two decades but remained silent about their secret relationship. When you put two and two together, Beauty and Jasmine sound a lot like Whitney and Robyn. But hey, it might be another coincidence, right?
Put their similar appearance, family ties, hidden relationships, and label deals aside as coincidences. Remember when I said there was a smoking gun in the movie that clearly hints and Beauty being heavily inspired and influenced by Whitney Houston’s story?
There’s a moment in the movie when Beauty’s agent tells her to sing “more black” because she sings “too white.” She responds to him by saying that she doesn’t know how to sing more black or less white – she just sings.
That line couldn’t be a more direct reference to Whitney Houston’s words in one particular interview while she was on top of her career. Whitney experienced similar scrutiny from people telling her that her singing sounds “too white.” She responded similarly to how Beauty responded to her agent. Whitney said:
“I think music is music, you know? I mean, how do I sing more black, or how do I sing – what am I doing that’s making me sound white? I don’t understand, you know? I’m singing music from my heart, from my soul, and that’s it. I don’t really think it’s an issue in my life.”
Beauty: Is She Actually Whitney Houston?
So, is Beauty actually Whitney Houston? Well, she is not. Beauty is a fictional character and never has anyone working on the project explicitly said or even implied that the story was based on Whitney Houston’s life.
However, one can’t deny all the similarities between Beauty and Whitney, and their lives. So, I wouldn’t explicitly say that Beauty is based on a true story about Whitney Houston, but it is certainly inspired by the life and work of one of the best singers and performers the world has ever seen.