Whitney Elizabeth Houston is the most awarded female act of all time. She has won two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards as of 2010.
Houston is also one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums and singles worldwide on relatively few releases. As of 2011, Houston has released seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold certification.
At the age of eleven, Houston began to follow in her mother's footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano.
Houston spent her early teenage years touring nightclubs where her mother Cissy was performing, and she would occasionally get on stage and perform with her. In 1977, at age 14, she was a backup singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party."
In 1978, at age 15, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman," a song she would later turn into a larger hit for herself on her monster-selling The Bodyguard soundtrack album. She also sang back-up on albums by Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson, and appeared as a lead vocalist on a Paul Jabara album, entitled Paul Jabara and Friends, released by Columbia Records in 1983.
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While modeling, she continued her burgeoning recording career by working with producers Ben Dover, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material.
Several times, Houston had been offered recording contracts. In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records saw her performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub and convinced Arista's head Clive Davis to offer her a recording contract which Houston signed in 1983.
Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me" which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single was released in 1984 and gave Houston her first taste of success, becoming a Top 5 R&B hit. It would also appear on her debut album in 1985.
Houston's self-titled debut album was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone magazine praised the new talent, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years." The first single, the dance-funk "Someone For Me," failed to chart in the US and UK.
The next single, "Thinking About You," reached the top ten of the US R&B Chart, as the album sold modestly. The release of the next single, the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love," peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and went to #1 on the R&B Charts. As a result, the album began to sell strongly.
The jazzy ballad "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and it would become Houston's first #1 hit single in both the US and the UK. At the time, MTV had received harsh criticism for not playing enough videos by African-American artists while favoring rock acts.
The next single, "How Will I Know," peaked at #1 and introduced Houston to the MTV audience because of the video. This would make the singer the first African-American female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network.
By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 album chart and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. The final single, "Greatest Love of All," became Houston's biggest hit at the time after peaking #1 and remaining there for three weeks. At the time, it was the best-selling debut album by a female artist. The album had become an international success, and was certified 13x Platinum (diamond) in the U.S. alone, and has sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide.
At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. She won her first Grammy award for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female' for "Saving All My Love for You."
Her second studio album, Whitney, released in 1987, became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Houston achieved crossover appeal on the popular music charts and was often featured on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know."
Houston's first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard in 1992. The movie'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 top-10 best-selling albums, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to soundtracks, including with the films Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.
Three years after the release of her fourth studio album, My Love Is Your Love, she renewed her recording contract with Arista Records. She released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney, in 2002, and the Christmas-themed One Wish: The Holiday Album in 2003.
Amid widespread media coverage of personal and professional turmoil, Houston ended her 14-year marriage to singer Bobby Brown in 2006. In 2009, Houston released her seventh studio album, I Look To You.