In the Kasi Lemmons-directed biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Nafessa Williams plays Robyn Crawford to Naomi Ackie’s Whitney Houston. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is the first narrative feature from a major studio to explore the romantic and professional relationship between the two.
As the movie shows, Crawford and Houston’s relationship was swept under the rug and hidden. Even though their relationship was an open secret, it was never recognized. For Williams, Crawford deserved this moment.
“I wish that they were in a time – when they were at the peak of their love – that they could have been together, but we all know why,” Williams told GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos in a recent interview. “With society still not being acceptable and open at that time, it just felt good to give voice to her for that and to show [the full extent of their love].”
“Even though there was romance, I just still think they were soulmates on a friendship level, she explained, “I think it was just pure love. They genuinely enjoyed each other’s time. Naomi is Whitney’s sign, I’m Robin’s sign. So, it was like a beautiful crash for us to just gel and it all happened naturally… I hope it’s going to be freeing for [Robyn] for her story to be told, not just in her autobiography, but now in the movie and in such a beautiful, classy light.”
In the film, which was written by Anthony McClaren and executive produced by Pat Houston and Clive Davis, we follow the ups and downs of Whitney Houston’s career and personal life. From her signing with Clive Davis and Arista Records to her iconic performance of the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl to her breakthrough performance in The Bodyguard to her relationship with Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is a timeline of Houston’s most iconic moments. However, the movie still seemed to always come back to Crawford and Houston’s relationship. It was almost the center of the story that never got full recognized.
“I have not talked to her yet, but I hope to,” Williams said regarding Crawford’s reaction to the film. “I just really hope that she’s happy with my rendition and my perception of who she is and was. I really approach this carefully and I want her to know that I just wanted to represent her in the best light.”
She added, “And again, the foundation for me with them was love… if you lead with that, you’re going to be good.”
If she did have the opportunity to talk with Crawford, Williams would tell her that she is a “real one” and “loyal to a fault” – something most people want in their relationships.
“That’s the Sagittarius in us though,” she explained. “When we take on someone in our lives, we’re either all the way in or completely out. I respect and admire how she played her part and really had Whitney’s back, and when I do get to meet her, because I like to speak the things that I want, I’m going to let her know.”
Above all, Williams hopes that Robyn and Whitney’s relationship in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody helps audiences — especially LGBTQ audiences – to love who they are. “Love who you love unapologetically,” she said. “One, we’re here for a good time – not a long time. We don’t know how much time we have and I just want to live my life doing everything that makes me feel good.”
She punctuated the thought with: “It’s just tough when you’re not able to express yourself to the fullest and I just want people to know that and to feel that.”
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody opens in theaters December 23rd.