Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American recording artist, actress, and former fashion model. A relative to several prominent soul singers, including her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick, and godmother Aretha Franklin, Houston began singing at her New Jersey church as a member of a junior gospel choir at age eleven. After she began performing alongside her mother at night clubs in the New York City area, she was discovered by Arista Records label head Clive Davis. Houston released her debut album Whitney Houston in 1985, which became the best-selling debut album by a female artist. Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts as well as her prominence on MTV enabled several African-American women to follow in her success.
Following her marriage to fellow singer Bobby Brown, Houston appeared in her first starring role in the feature film The Bodyguard in 1992. The film's original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and became the world's best-selling soundtrack. Its lead single, "I Will Always Love You", became one of the best-selling singles in music history.Houston continued to star in feature films and contributed to soundtracks including Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996).After the release of her fourth studio album My Love Is Your Love (1998), she renewed her recording contract with Arista Records in 2001 for a historic $100 million dollars.She subsequently released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney the following year. Amidst widespread media coverage of personal and professional turmoil, Houston's marriage to Brown ended in 2006.
Houston is one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 140 million albums and 50 million singles, worldwide. She is ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 54 million certified albums. Known as "The Voice" for her "powerful, penetrating pop-gospel" vocals, she has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Houston has been cited as an influence among numerous contemporary R&B and pop music artists.