The news of Whitney Houston's death has dominated news headlines across the country in recent weeks and media coverage of her funeral over the weekend was viewed coast-to-coast. Fans around mourned the loss of Houston, who is widely considered one of the most gifted songstresses of all time.
But for Three Angels Broadcasting Network's Yvonne Lewis, the treasured pop singer's untimely passing was tragic for a more personal reason. Lewis has been a friend of the Houston family for thirty years and she described Whitney's death as the loss not only of an immense talent, but also a wonderful, magnificent woman.
"She was a treasure, a sweetheart," said Lewis.
Lewis, along with 3ABN founder Danny Shelton, were among the mourners at Houston's Saturday funeral in New Jersey paying their respects to the legendary artist and allowing Lewis to lend a comforting hand to her confidant, Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother.
"I met Cissy Houston at a session," said Lewis. "Luther Vandross, he was my best friend for years, he would tell me about Cissy and how she did this and that at a session. Well, he had a session and Cissy and I were both on it and we just developed an instant friendship."
After the pair hit it off as friends, Lewis was eventually presented with the opportunity to sing backup studio vocals for Cissy's rising star daughter—young Whitney. Lewis made several appearances on Whitney's 1985 self-titled debut album—including the number-one single, "How Will I Know"—that ended up selling 25 million copies worldwide, one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Having met Whitney prior to her mega stardom, Lewis said the eventual pop sensation was an absolute joy from day one and very close-knit with her mother.
"Cissy called me to do a few gigs with Whitney as a background singer," said Lewis. "Whitney wasn't Whitney Houston at that point, she was still just ‘Nippy’ working with her mom at the sessions. She was wonderful to work with and her attitude was perfect. She was just her mom's little girl. Even as she was becoming Whitney, she was her mom's baby."
In the years since working with Whitney, Lewis has periodically stayed in contact with Cissy and, just as mothers do, they always spoke about each other's children.
"Whitney's mother and I had the closer of the relationships. We would talk on the phone and have these great conversations and I would ask about Whitney because we would talk about our kids. It brings tears to my eyes knowing what she is dealing with."
Shelton said at the funeral the bond shared between the two was evident.
"I noticed at the repass when we went back upstairs and (Cissy) saw her, she just said 'Yvonne, my girl,' and they embraced. It was really touching," said Shelton.
Page 2 of 2 - Following her success as a background vocalist for Houston, Vandross and others, Lewis went on to become prominent in the commercial jingle industry, most notably for Diet Coke, Frito-Lay, Burger King and Pizza Hut. She also recorded an album titled, "No Stranger in Paradise," appeared on Sesame Street and sang a duet with Kermit the Frog, "It Ain't Easy Being Green."
But, according to Lewis, who is currently the general manager of 3ABN, she said nothing compares to her current project, establishing the network’s seventh television station, "Dare to Dream," which is aimed at giving hope to disadvantaged inner- city minorities.
"It's something that I am so grateful to God for. I had a great time, but I wouldn't compare what I had back in that day to what I have now with God because I wasn't walking with the Lord at that time, but he still blessed me. He still allowed me to have these wonderful experiences, but there was something missing and I didn't know what that was until I found the Lord. I don't feel that I was lucky, I feel that every experience I have prepared me for what I am doing right now, which is 'Dare to Dream.'"