Soul Train founder Don Cornelius launched the Soul Train Music Awards in 1987 to recognize achievements in black music. At the 1988 awards ceremony, some audience members booed Whitney Houston, apparently questioning her authenticity, believing her musical talents and successful image were “too pop” or “too white” and not aligned within the canon of “black” music.

Soul Train award for Female Artist of the Decade given to Whitney Houston in 2000.
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of the Estate of Whitney Houston.

Appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1991, Houston spoke about the booing, “I got a lot of flak about I sing too white. . . I think that maybe that’s where it comes from… I grew up on Soul Train just like every other black kid, you know? . . . I do sing the way God intended for me to sing and I’m using what he gave me and I’m using it to the best of my ability.” Less than ten years later, at the Soul Train Music Awards in 2000, Houston was honored as Female Artist of the Decade.


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