7 Key Looks From Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody |
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7 Key Looks From Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody 

Photo courtesy of Emily Aragones.

Die-hard Whitney Houston fans will instantly recognize the opening frame of director Kasi Lemmons and writer Anthony McCarten’s Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It shows Houston (played by Naomi Ackie) from behind, dressed in a black velvet turtleneck gown with a shimmering capelike train and an updo, about to begin her performance at the 1994 American Music Awards. Known today as “the Impossible Medley” (she sang a mix of show tunes like “I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going” and her hit “I Have Nothing” over 10 minutes), it’s a defining moment in the singer’s 30-year career. The outfit only emphasizes her indelible performance and talent. She’s a star, through and through. 

Immediately after this shot, viewers are transported back to 1983. Houston meets Robyn Crawford, played by Nafessa Williams, who would become Houston’s lover, and then assistant and creative director. The scene takes liberties by having the pair meet serendipitously in their neighborhood just before Houston’s big break, and sets the tone for what’s to come. (They actually met as counselors at a summer camp.) The late icon’s accolades include some six Grammy Awards, two Emmy Awards, and 16 Billboard Awards. But as these humanizing scenes let on, this isn’t a film primarily about Whitney Houston, the pop star. This is a film about Whitney Houston, the human. 

Charlese Antoinette, the costume designer behind the project, explains that this distinction was one of the most important points to convey. The talent behind the costumes in Judas and the Black MessiahSomebody, Antoinette has experience at bringing real people to life onscreen. However, retelling the singer’s story on film had its own complexities—especially in terms of capturing the lesser known, rawest form of Houston, whom loved ones called Nippy. “I watched a documentary [that] talked about how [Whitney] was Whitney Houston on stage, and Nippy at home,” Antoinette says. “So I really tried to show that in the costume.” 

Below, Antoinette walks Vogue through some of Ackie’s looks, as they visually chart Houston’s ascent to the top before her untimely death.  

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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