A life of deadly love and privilege revealed in the biographical film Bobbi Kristina

Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter Bobbi Kristina lived and died in a spotlight that’s still shining

On 11 February 2012, the world was stunned after reports surfaced that multi award-winning pop superstar Whitney Houston was found dead, accidentally drowned in her bathtub. Three years later, her daughter Bobbi Kristina (known to family and friends as Krissy) was found unconscious in her own bath. She remained in a coma for six months before her death on 26 July 2015.

On Sunday, 24 May, the autobiographical film Bobbi Kristina (showing on Lifetime, DStv 131 at 19:20), will unpack how Krissy followed in her mother’s footsteps – not to the stars and fame, but into darkness. The film’s introduction claims, “You heard the news, you never heard her story.”

Actress Joy Rovaris, who plays Krissy, explains, “One of the things that I kept seeing over and over again was her saying, 'I just want the world to know the real me. I want them to know my story.' Bobbi Kristina felt like her portrayal on reality TV wasn't her. I got this script and I understood what this story is, there is no better timing to give her justice.”

Becoming Bobbi Kristina

Those reality shows that Krissy was protesting gave Joy a wealth of material to study. It included the notorious 2005 reality series Being Bobby Brown, which followed Krissy’s parents, Whitney and rapper Bobby Brown, in excruciatingly personal detail (including gross toilet stuff) as they worked on piecing back together their marriage. There were also any number of Whitney biographical movies. And between 2012 and 2013, following her mother’s death, Krissy starred in her family’s reality series, The Houstons: On Our Own, which revealed her unsettling relationship with Nick Gordon, her “brother”-turned-lover.

But Joy found it a very different experience trying to watch the shows from Krissy’s perspective. “I watched all of Being Bobby Brown with new eyes. I looked at Whitney and Bobby as if they were my parents. Looking at the stories we already know and the tabloids and all of that but with new eyes of ‘that's my mom and dad’.”

And Joy didn’t stop there. “I used everything available online, and I was able to speak with some of Krissy's best friends and that was really, really humbling,” she says. “Her best friend at the time she passed, Alex Reed, told me that Krissy called her a couple days before she passed (from a closet) and she (revealed that she) and Nick had just been in a really bad fight. Alex stayed on the phone with (her) for three hours trying to comfort her. She shared that conversation with me and what they talked about. I felt so honoured and so humbled to have had a close, intimate moment shared with me.”

Looking for love, finding death

Joy sees Krissy as a young woman whose desperate search for love, modelled on her parents’ dysfunctional marriage and overshadowed by their fame, led to her death. D’Angela Proctor, Special Vice President of the film’s original production company, TV One, agrees. “One of the things that appeal the most to me about the Bobbi Kristina story is that, at the end of the day, this is a story of a young girl who was looking for a boy to love her. To me, it is a love story gone wrong, and, to be honest, it could’ve been anyone. She didn’t have to be Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s daughter. The story is something that is told as a cautionary tale to young women, in terms of the choices that they make and who they bring to a relationship and whether they bring their best selves to a relationship. So, in that regard, it’s a universal story that can be told at any point and time.”

Watch Bobbi Kristina on Sunday, 24 May on Lifetime (DStv131) at 19:20.

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