When legendary singer Whitney Houston died, she was still tormented by her bust-up with former assistant, Robyn Crawford. RadarOnline.com can exclusively reveal their once loving relationship was destroyed by fear, greed and a shocking betrayal!
Courtesy of The National ENQUIRER, Crawford, a former all-state basketball player, has never discussed the real nature of her friendship with Houston or the rampant rumors that they were lesbian lovers.
But in an interview for Esquire after Houston died, Crawford hinted at why she believes her friend turned away from her 12 years ago: the vulnerable star's reluctance to reopen emotional wounds.
"When people left her or were told to leave, they could never believe that Whitney would never call them, but she never did," said Crawford who quit her job in 2000.
"She was working hard to keep herself together and I think she felt if she admitted any feeling of sadness or weakness, she would crumble..."
"That was Whitney, she could not pick up the phone and that meant it was too painful."
Houston was 16 and at the beginning of a skyrocketing career when she first met 18-year-old Crawford. They were working summer jobs at a community center in East Orange, N.J. Houston was already a local star who told Crawford to stick with her and she would "take her around the world."
Crawford says she knew instantly Houston was "special." The teen model had "peachy-colored skin" and "looked like an angel," she wrote.
So Crawford dropped out of Monmouth College to become Houston's assistant. And true to her word, the pair traveled around the world together as the diva performed on tour.
If they were lovers, they never acknowledged their relationship. Still, rumors swirled about the twosome when they moved into a cozy apartment together, even though both women could well afford to live on their own.
The chatter increased when Houston dedicated Whitney Houston, her 1985 debut album, to Crawford, adding. "I love you."
In the Houston bio, Good Girl, Bad Girl, Kevin Ammons, a former bodyguard and boyfriend of Houston's ex-publicist, writes that he saw the women tongue kissing.
He says Houston's mom Cissy, a church-going Gospel singer, pushed her daughter to dump Crawford as the '90s neared, because she feared that gay rumors could destroy her daughter's career.
Twenty years ago, stars were terrified to come out of the closet for fear that they would never work again. Houston decided if she had to stop the gossip, marrying Bobby Brown was the way to do it.
Crawford was devastated when Houston announced her wedding plans, says Ammons.
He claims Crawford told him, "If Whitney goes through with this marriage to Brown; I'll hold a press conference and tell everyone about Whitney and me!"
But Crawford remained loyal and never carried out her threat.
In 1992 Houston and Brown finally tied the knot and the following year she gave birth to Bobbi Kristina.
Houston and Crawford began to drift apart. The two had a bitter falling out in 1996 after they got into a fight over a pretty girl singer, 17-year-old Shanna Wiley. Houston, who was grooming Wiley for stardom, felt betrayed after Crawford signed Wiley to her own record label Better Place Records.
The lesbian rumors swirled again after Brown questioned his wife's reasons for marrying him in his 2008 biography, Bobby Brown: The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But...by Derrick Handspike.
"Now I realize Whitney had a different agenda than I did when we got married," Brown was quoted as saying. "I believe her agenda was to clean up her image while mine was to be loved and have children.
"Whitney felt she had to make rumors of a lesbian affair go away," he said.
"Since she was the American Sweetheart and all, that didn't go too well with her image," said Brown. "In Whitney's situation the only solution was to get married and have kids. That would kill all speculation whether it was true or not."
Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who met and befriended Houston and Crawford at an AIDS charity event just before Houston's wedding, says the marriage was strictly a business arrangement.
He said it was clear to him that Houston and Crawford were true soul mates.
"When I met them, it was obvious they were madly in love," he told a British newspaper. "Their intimacy and affection was so sweet and romantic.
"They held hands in the back of the car like teenage sweethearts. Clearly more than just friends, they were a gorgeous couple and so happy together. To see their love was infectious and uplifting.
"Whitney was happiest and at the peak of her career when she was with Robyn. Sadly, she suffered family and church pressure to end her greatest love of all."
Now friends blame the stress of living a lie with helping to destroy Houston. They say being trapped in the closet unable to live her life with Robyn turned her into an unhappy junkie who tried to bury her pain with alcohol and drugs.
"It seems likely that the split with Robyn contributed to her substance abuse and decline," says Tatchell. "There is a known correlation between denial of one's sexuality and a propensity to self-destructive behavior. Homophobia undoubtedly added to the pressures on Whitney and hastened her demise."
In her Esquire eulogy, Crawford refused to say anything about her rumored romance with Houston, but she admits she misses her terribly.
"I can't believe that I'm never going to hug her or hear her laughter," she said. "I loved her laughter and that's what I miss most."
Find out more of the shocking secrets and scandals surrounding Whitney Houston's death, and her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown's shocking passing, on this week's episode of National Enquirer Investigates, Saturday night at 9 pm PT/ET on REELZ Channel.