In the ten years since Whitney Houston’s passing, one of the sweetest journeys to witness has been the purposeful reclaiming of her legacy by Black queer people — at this point it’s hard to even remember that when she left this earth too soon, her bisexuality was still whispered about in rumors. And for me, there’s nothing more representative of that than “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is OUR song — the song we sing at the top of our lungs with our friends, the song that brings us back to the sticky dance floor no matter how much our feet hurt, the one that is always worth a smile. Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody who loves her, and even though she wasn’t able to live her truth fully in life, we have made it our business to make sure that all the somebodies we dance with are in her honor. We have never lost track of her joy, even when so much has focused on the pain and tragedy, the closet and addiction, that ate through her life.
I Wanna Dance with Somebody, the movie, is probably as complicated to approach as Whitney’s life was complicated to live, with everyone having an opinion (my feelings on the Houston family would fill another post). But I will say that there is no one I trust more to handle the nuances of a legacy Whitney Houston than Kasi Lemmons, a Black woman director whose Eve’s Bayou is still a beloved Black cult classic more than 20 years after it was released and one of the most iconic depictions of Black girls and women’s lives on film (I said what I said).
From the minute Naomi Ackie’s voice starts the I Wanna Dance with Somebody trailer, it’s hard not to be taken aback with the care she’s taken with Whitney’s cadence — and I’m immediately reminded that she was always the best part of Master of None’s lesbian season. Nafessa Williams (of Black Lightning fame, where she played the first Black lesbian superhero on television) has proven many times before that she has the tomboy swag to pull off playing Whitney Houston’s best friend and former lover, Robyn Crawford. And even though in this trailer their time together is short, it feels just right that of all things, it’s a dance.
I Wanna Dance with Somebody releases December 23rd in theaters.