Bobbi Kristina and the compassion we don’t show celebrity children

Photo credit: Bobbi Kristina's Instagram (@realbkristinahg)
Photo credit: Bobbi Kristina’s Instagram (@realbkristinahg)

“As of today, she has been moved into hospice care. We thank everyone for their support and prayers. She is in God’s hands now.”

Those were the words in an official statement from singer Bobby Brown’s family on the current state of his 22-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who’s been in a coma since she was found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Atlanta townhome in January. Brown’s condition has apparently only worsened over the past six months, as family, friends and fans try to come to grips with the fact that the only daughter of the late pop superstar Whitney Houston could be lost forever.

“Krissi is breathing, but she cannot communicate,” a family source told PEOPLE magazine earlier this week. “The family and her father are just taking things one day at a time. She’s just in God’s care and it’s whatever he decides.”

“The heartbreak and pain we feel in seeing her that way is beyond words.”

Bobbi Kristina was born in 1993 to two famous parents, New Edition member and notorious R&B “bad boy” Bobby Brown, and pop megastar Whitney Houston. Her parents’ troubles are well-documented; the pair had a tumultuous marriage that many outsiders felt was doomed from the beginning. Both Brown and Houston were regular drug abusers and Brown had numerous run-ins with the law. They ultimately divorced in 2006.

The world watched Bobbi Kristina from infancy; when she made a cameo in her famous parents’ video for “Something In Common” back in 1993, when Whitney brought her onstage at the American Music Awards in 1994 and when she cooed “Sing Mommy” on Whitney’s 1997 hit “My Love Is Your Love.” She was featured on the ill-advised reality show “Being Bobby Brown” in the early 2000s and when Whitney died in 2012, most of the concern was for her daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Almost immediately, the media wanted to know how she was dealing with the loss.

“She’s always with me,” the then-teenaged Brown told Oprah Winfrey in 2012 after Whitney’s death. “Her spirit is strong, it’s a strong spirit. I feel her pass through me all the time.”

But it became apparent fairly quickly that Brown was exhibiting some of her mother and father’s self-destructive tendencies. And the cameras that had been a constant fixture in her life since birth documented what appeared to be a young woman in a downward spiral.

Brown’s weight fluctuated and became a subject of scrutiny — as did speculation about substance abuse. In 2011, the National Enquirer published photos of Brown snorting a white powder, but she denied that she had a drug problem. During appearances on another ill-advised reality show, 2013’s “The Houstons: On Our Own,” Bobbi Kirstina often appeared on camera drunk and disoriented. Her grandmother, Cissy Houston, addressed Bobbi Kristina’s issues but sounded confident that the young woman would set herself right. “Of course I worry about her,” said Cissy in a 2013 interview with PEOPLE. “It doesn’t mean that she is going to follow her [mother’s] same path. She could, but anybody could. I don’t want to jinx her. I’m trying to make sure she doesn’t.”

Deciding to star in a reality series after losing Whitney was probably detrimental to the entire family — but especially Bobbi Kristina. In the wake of Whitney’s death, scrutiny on Brown was at an all-time high, and her behavior became more and more erratic. Within a few months, she’d announced her engagement to Nick Gordon, who she’d previously referred to as her “big brother” due to him being a pseudo-foster child of Whitney’s. They later claimed that they’d gotten married in 2014, but the family denied the claim. She and Gordon were evicted from their home in 2013 due to complaints from neighbors about noise and partying; and upon leaving, a note was left that read:

“Thanks. You are s–t at the bottom of our shoe. Thank you for making a hard year harder. You are a miserable couple, and always will be. You were honored to have us living above you and you couldn’t stand such a young beautiful couple being far more successful than you ever will be. I pray your misery doesn’t rub off on your innocent little baby.”

A rep claimed the note was written by friends of Brown and Gordon.

Bobbi Kristina went on an expletive-filled Twitter rant against actress Angela Bassett when she learned that Bassett would be directing a film about Whitney but didn’t request Bobbi Kristina’s involvement. She later apologized.

Gordon is still being implicated in what happened to Brown, although no charges have been filed. But the larger question is much harder to answer. How did the constant scrutiny of the modern media age rob us of Bobbi Kristina? Being the daughter of a superstar is tough enough, but with social media and reality TV poking and prodding and dissecting every facet of celebrity, Bobbi Kristina seemed to be swallowed whole by that harsh spotlight. Being the child of addicts comes with its own set of pitfalls, add that to tabloid attention and insecurity and you have a heady mix that can lead to tragic results.

And the cycle is being repeated with hyperscrutiny of younger celebrity kids like Blue Ivy and North West. Granted, their parents don’t appear to be as self-destructive as Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston — but with fans and media dissecting even the way toddlers’ hair is done or what clothes an elementary school kid is wearing, is it hard to fathom that the next generation of celebrity kids will have the same issues that someone like Bobbi Kristina has had to face? Is there no compassion for those born into fame and status?

The life of Bobbi Kristina has been troubling and sad, and it has undoubtedly wounded her family in ways from which they will never recover. Here’s hoping that in the face of this unfortunate situation, the public will remember how a celebrity kid didn’t decide to have famous parents. We should be more compassionate toward those who may be suffering in the spotlight.


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