Whitney Houston’s family opens up in new film

Her legacy as one of the most successful recording artists of all time remains untouched, but from her meteoric rise in the '80s through her untimely death in 2012, Whitney Houston has remained an enigma. Now, the new documentary, "Whitney," cracks open the the legend and the myths to reveal the girl from Newark whose demons ultimately defeated her outsized talents. "I wanted to make a portrait of the human being Whitney, to try and understand her," director Kevin Macdonald ("Touching the Void," "The Last King of Scotland") told Mary Elizabeth Williams during a recent "Salon Talks."

A bullied little girl who became a pop charts-shattering crossover star, Houston was an artist born too soon. At the height of her fame, she was dogged by innuendo about her sexual orientation and criticism for her massive success with white audiences. Lonely and adrift, she was

according to family members
a sexual abuse survivor tormented by shame, and a substance abuser ridiculed for her struggles. In a different era, all those elements of her history might have become badges of strength and inspiration. "You see how much cruelty there is in the media," Macdonald said. "For a vulnerable, insecure person, seeing that you have become a punchline must have been devastating."

Watch the video above to see Macdonald discuss Houston's "complicated" sexuality and why history should go easier on Bobby Brown. Tune in for SalonTV's live shows, "Salon Talks" and "Salon Stage", daily at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT and 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT, streaming live on YouTube, Facebook and Periscope.

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