Jan 10, 2014 11:48 PM EST
Her full name is Whitney Elizabeth Houston.
Houston was born on August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey.
Her father, John Houston, gave her the nickname "Nippy" when she was a baby. Her nickname led to the management company, Nippy Inc.
Houston is the third born and youngest child in the family.
Her family left Newark in 1967 when she was 4 years old following the Newark riots. They moved to East Orange, New Jersey.
Houston attended the Mount Saint Dominic Academy, a Catholic girls high school. She met her best friend Robyn Crawford at this school.
Her favorite subject at school was History.
Like most other singers, Houston got her musical career started by performing at churches. She started performing at the age of 11 as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Her first solo performance is "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" at the church.
She always knew she wanted to be a singer. "I think I knew then that [my singing ability] was an infectious thing that God had given me," she later said in an interview with Diane Sawyer.
By the time she turned 15, Whitney was performing often with her mother and trying to get a record deal of her own.
At the age of 15, she sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman".
She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson.
She used to be a model. She started out as a fashion model in the early 1980s, becoming one of the first African American women to cover Seventeen magazine.
When she was 19, Whitney Houston was discovered in a nightclub by the renowned Clive Davis of Arista Records, who signed her immediately and took the helm of her career as she navigated from gospel to pop stardom.
She made her national televised debut on The Merv Griffin Show alongside Arista's head Clive Davis.
Her debut album, Whitney Houston, was released in 1985 and topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks.
Over the next year, her hit singles "Saving All My Love for You" and "How Will I Know" helped the album reach the top of the charts, where it stayed for fourteen non-consecutive weeks.
Houston won a Grammy in 1986 for "Saving All My Love for You"; the award was presented to the singer by her cousin Dionne Warwick.
Her extraordinary mezzo-soprano belting voice is credited with influencing singers ranging from Mariah Carey to Celine Dion, Alicia Keys and Beyonce.
Houston was the cousin of Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick.
Aretha Franklin was her honorary aunt.
Her best-known hits include "I will Always Love You," "Saving All my Love for You" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and she has sold more than 170 million albums worldwide.
Whitney Houston appeared in four movies in her career, The Bodyguard (1992), Waiting to Exhale (1995), The Preacher's Wife (1996) and Sparkle (2012).
The Bodyguard grossed more than $121 million in the US and $410 million worldwide.
She also appeared TV on Gimme a Break in 1984, Silver Spoons in 1985, and Boston Public in 2002.
She also starred in TV commercials for Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, Sanyo and AT&T.
She denied starring on The Cosby Show as Sondra Huxtable because she wanted to be a singer. She couldn't sign the contract because she wanted to have time to tour. At the time, she didn't have a record deal.
In 1987, Michael Jackson wanted Whitney Houston to record "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" with him. His request was denied.
Robert DeNiro had a major crush on the lovely Ms. Houston in the late '80s. "She's the sexiest woman I have ever seen. She is gorgeous. I want her by my side," he is rumored to have said.
In the 1980's, Whitney Houston dated American football player Randall Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy.
She met R&B singer Bobby Brown in 1989 at the Soul Train Music Awards.
Whitney and Bobby got married on July 18, 1992.
Whitney's favorite color was purple so the entire bridal party wore attire in the hue. Groomsmen even wore purple tuxedos with matching custom-made alligator dress shoes.
On March 4, 1993, she gave birth to her only child Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown.
In October 1994, Houston attended and performed at a state dinner in the White House honoring newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela.
In 2004, husband Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston starred in a reality TV program, Being Bobby Brown.
They divorced after a tumultuous, drug-fueled 14 years together.
Her favorite actress was Jessica Lange and her favorite cereal was the sugary sweet Fruity Pebbles.
Whitney Houston was the only artist to chart seven consecutive number one Billboard Hot 100 hits.
Her favorite place in the world was her home. She enjoyed doing things around the house, and she wanted a normal life with her family.
Houston won six Grammy's, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards in a 25-year career. According to the Guinness Book of Records, she was the most-honored female singer with more than 400 awards.
The last 10 years of Houston's life were dominated by drug use, rumors of relapses and trips to rehab.
In a 2002 TV interview, she admitted using marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs. In 2009, she admitted lacing marijuana with rock cocaine. She launched a comeback tour in 2009 and in April 2010 she called media reports she was using drugs again "ridiculous." In May 2011, Houston enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
She dreamed of being retired by 201. Diane Sawyer of ABC News interviewed Houston in 2002. When asked about her future in 10 years, Houston said she saw herself, "Retired. Sitting, looking at my daughter grow up, become a great woman of God, and grandchildren."
Her birthday is on the same day as NBA star Derek Fisher, actor Sam Elliott, and "Working Girl" star Melanie Griffith.
On February 9, 2012, Whitney Houston made her last public appearance, joining Kelly Price on stage in Hollywood. California to sing "Jesus Loves Me".
On February 11, 2012, Houston was found dead in a suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, submerged in the bathtub.
Whitney Houston died aged 48.
An invitation-only memorial for Whitney Houston held on February 18, 2012 at the New Hope Baptist in Newark, New Jersey.