"If it wasn't for Whitney, I wouldn't be married with a beautiful kid and wonderful husband today" says Lisa. "She changed the game by kissing Costner." Lisa is a black 30-something wife and mother of one who lives in Eden Prairie. Her husband is white. "We met at Tropix [an old downtown nightclub] years ago, I actually went up to him. And we have been together ever since."
This past week, memories, tributes and tweets have highlighted Whitney Houston's talent, beauty and her voice. But one thing that has gone unrecognized is another achievement: The impact she had on interracial dating, especially between black women and white men. Who knew how powerful that image would be of Whitney slow dancing with Kevin Costner in that country saloon?
When The Bodyguard
was released in the winter of 1992, it was a box office hit and winning soundtrack, obviously. But little is talked about the social barrier it broke down, a romantic story between a black female and a white male. Whitney and her star power made it easier and gave more confidence for a black woman to ask out a white male or any other race for that matter, and made it socially acceptable.
Others don't believe so, like Tisha from Minneapolis. "I can't say it made it easier. Whitney Houston played a superstar singer, and for some reason, stars and athletes are an exception. A white woman, for a black man is a sign of status that he's arrived. Your average black woman doesn't come with that same connotation in our society. But the movie definitely helped to open up people's minds, and the result of that is evident today."
Tisha is now dating a racially mixed Irish/Asian man from Bloomington. "I couldn't wait around for a Denzel, they are scarce in this city, and the ones that do have their act together are already taken. I like where I am at right now"
Due to the simple lack of black males in the small city of Minneapolis, and because many of them date white women, black women look outside their race. To black women, Whitney locking lips with Costner on that airport tarmac left them less awkward and more comfortable about the approach, or the possibility of dating a white man.
According to recent research, black men are more than twice as likely as black women to marry someone outside their race -- 24 percent to 9 percent.
"I always looked up to Whitney, and seeing that movie made me realize, their are other options for love out there," says Lisa. "I didn't have a big butt or breasts anyway, so the fellas were not really trying to check me. I was too athletic for them. But if I did try to date outside my race, I would get teased, mocked and harassed, even though some of them were dating white women, I was looked at like the traitor"
Lisa met her first white boyfriend at the Brookdale Mall in the mid-'90s while shopping for tapes at Musicland. She asked the salesperson for help and they ended up dating for the summer. But it wasn't always the summer of love.
"My father didn't react well when I finally introduced the two," says Lisa "My dad literally threw him out the front door as he fell down the front stairs onto the lawn. I was forbidden to see him and I went off to college that fall and never saw him again." After college she headed to Tropix to celebrate her older sister's birthday, and, well, you heard about the rest.
But acceptance is changing, even since the days of The Bodyguard, about 83 percent of Americans say it is "all right for blacks and whites to date each other," up from 48 percent in 1987. As a whole, about 63 percent of those surveyed say it "would be fine" if a family member were to marry outside their own race.
Movie and music stars like David Bowie, Robert De Niro, Jon B, and Robin Thicke all have dated or married black women, and stars like Halle Berry, Kerry Washington, Thandie Newton, and Zoe Saldana have dated or married white men.
So to some, Whitney left a huge catalog of music, beautiful smiles and practically reinvented "The Star-Spangled Banner." But to a few ladies, she made it all right to test the waters to find their love. Wonder what ever happened to Lisa's first white boyfriend? Well, he's writing this article. I will always love you.