Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American R&B/Pop singer, actress, and former fashion model. A relative of several soul singers, including her mother Cissy Houston and cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and a close family friend of 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 has released studio albums and movie soundtrack albums throughout her career, all of which have had diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold certification.
Houston released her debut album Whitney Houston in 1985, which became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release. 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 female artists to follow in her success.
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. Its lead single, "I Will Always Love You", became the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. The album makes her the only female act ranked in the list of the world's Top 10 best-selling albums; at number four. 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. She subsequently released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney, the following year with a Christmas album, One Wish: The Holiday Album, being released in 2003. Amidst widespread media coverage of personal and professional turmoil, Houston ended her 14 year marriage to Bobby Brown in 2006. In 2009, Houston released her seventh studio album, I Look To You.
Houston is the most awarded female artist of all time, according to Guinness World Records, with 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 411 career awards as of 2006. Houston is also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums and singles worldwide. Although she has released relatively few albums, she is ranked as the fourth best-selling female artist in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, with 55 million certified albums sold in the US alone. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart's fiftieth anniversary, ranking Houston at number nine. She has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Similiary, she is ranked as one of the Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by VH1.