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It’s been nearly eight years since Whitney Houston’s death, but she lives on thanks to her timeless music. This past summer, she was heard all over mainstream radio with that Steve Winwood cover, and there are more plans for more Whitney including a “hologram” tour and an album of more unreleased material.

The goal, according to her sister-in-law Pat Houston, is to “remind people why they fell in love with Whitney in the first place.” But now, someone else is talking about falling in love with Whitney: her best friend, Robyn Crawford. Crawford has a new memoir coming out, and she shared parts of it with People while opening up about their love story. While the magazine describes her as Houston’s “gatekeeper, closest confidante and most loyal protector,” Crawford revealed she was also her lover, something neither had ever spoken about publicly.

So why is she laying it all out there now? “I’d come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship,” said Robyn. “And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent.” She also didn’t like all the negativity that’s been coming out in recent years, and the focus on the tragic times in Houston’s life, the drugs and her untimely death. Instead, she wanted to celebrate her legacy.

Houston and Crawford met when they were summer camp counsellors in New Jersey (Robyn was 19, Whitney was 16), and their friendship soon developed into something more. “We never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay,” wrote Crawford. “We just lived our lives and I hoped it could go on that way forever.” Crawford added: “We wanted to be together and that meant just us.”

But Whitney’s family intervened. Her mom, Cissy Houston, didn’t think it was “natural for two women to be that close.” And as she became more and more famous, Whitney decided to put a stop to their relationship altogether.

“She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore because it would make our journey even more difficult,” Crawford wrote, adding that Whitney left her with a parting gift: a blue Bible. “She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us, and back in the ’80s that’s how it felt.”

Whitney and Robyn’s closeness resulted in all kinds of speculation about the singer’s sexuality, but Crawford kept that secret buried, telling People, “I found comfort in my silence.”

She added: “Whitney knows I loved her and I know she loved me. We really meant everything to each other. We vowed to stand by each other.” Which is why Crawford wrote the book.

“I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame,” she explained. “And in that, to embrace our friendship.”

Crawford’s book promises to set the record straight with Houston’s previously untold story, and give fans more insight into the singer’s complex life. And who better to do that than the one person who knew her best?

A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston will be available on November 12.

David Foster shares his favourite memory of Whitney Houston