Director Tyler Perry caused quite the debate online following his recent appearance on Kevin Hart’s new Peacock series “Hart to Heart.” During the Friday, Aug. 5, episode, the “Alex Cross” star argued that his longtime friend Whitney Houston would still be alive today had the public not forced her to be someone she was not. The “Exhale” singer was found unresponsive in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Feb. 11, 2012. She was 48 years old.
Perry made his argument while discussing his fight for Black representation on television.
“When I think about somebody who I love dearly was Whitney, and I did all I could to try and help her, man … I believe she still would have been alive today had we not tried to make her into something she wasn’t,” the season Hollywood veteran began.
The actor went on to cite the infamous 1989 Soul Train Awards, during which the late singer, by then already a two-time Grammy Award winner, was booed by several audience members who felt she was too pop and did not represent Black music.
“Her being booed at the Soul Train Awards was one of the worst things that could have happened to her in her life,” he continued. “Her people saying she’s white, or she’s this or that made her want to show … because you know she came to this industry very young, but it made her want to show that she was something different. Instead of just realizing, let me keep my eye on this because she’s got the best voice in the world.”
Perry believed that had Houston maintained her focus on her talents, “none of this other stuff would have mattered.” Hart seemingly agreed with the actor’s statement, adding, “It’s the curse of trying to prove.”
Many critics online felt Perry’s comments seemingly insinuated that the Black community was to blame for the “I Run to You” singer’s death, including one user who offered an alternative, writing, “Or because she coped with drugs because your true sexual desire was suppressed because of her family.”
“I love my auntie nippy but….come on now Tyler,” wrote another unconvinced critic.
“GTEFOH,” fired back a third person. “Putting the blame for her death at the feet of Black folks is wrong. Also, it intimates that drug abuse and Black folks go hand in hand.”
Still, Perry found support for his claims among those who followed the actress’s career and from industry peers.
R&B singer Tank was also spotted in the comment sections of blogs that captured the clip, writing, “If you don’t understand the pressure of being in the public eye (at a high level), trying to cater to an audience, and also trying to be your true self you’ll never understand what he’s saying.” He added, “Yes she made her own choices but the ridicule she endured for the entire world to see was different. Everyone thinks they’re strong enough to weather any storm until one day you’re not.RIP.”
Another person said, “I’ve been saying this for years! It’s a paradigm of being black and successful. We are seeing it in a different form with Nicki Minaj. They teach us to start ripping them apart when they get to a certain point of success. Beyoncé is another example. MJ is one too. Oprah. The list goes on and on.”