Slumped at the kitchen table with a glass of wine in front of her, a bleary-eyed Bobbi Kristina Brown slurs her words as she admits: “I’m not OK. I just need time to learn how to live without my mum.”
Unfortunately, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney Houston’s daughter is not learning that lesson in the private and protective bosom of her family, but in the full glare of cameras recording her every move for a new reality television series, which has just started in America and is likely to screen here soon.
Other scenes in the teaser for the first episode of the ten-part series The Houstons: On Our Own, show Bobbi Kristina Brown being sick, frequently in tears, and announcing her engagement at the age of 19 to her foster brother, Nick Gordon.
It would be heartening to think that, despite the chronic dysfunction of her family life, Krissi, as she’s known to friends and family, will grow into a well-balanced young woman able to put tragedy behind her.
But the fact Bobbi Kristina Brown has signed up to a warts-and-all reality show, while still grieving the sudden death of her 48-year-old singing legend mother in February, does not score highly in any assessment of her judgment.
Nor, many would argue, does her recent engagement to 22-year-old Nick Gordon who grew up with her as her brother, and from whom she has been inseparable since her mother’s death.
Whitney Houston took Nick Gordon into her care when he was 12 and unofficially adopted him when his father went to prison and his mother could reportedly no longer care for him.
A tweet from Nick Gordon in March confirming that he and Bobbi Kristina Brown were in a relationship met with much uproar, given that until then they had known each other as siblings.
The family, already fractured by the tensions of an ongoing inheritance battle, is said to disapprove of the romance.
Whether Bobbi Kristina Brown cares what they think is another matter, given that she has already faced more controversy in 19 years than most people see in a lifetime.
Her mother and father, the singer Bobby Brown, were both drug addicts, and Bobbi Kristina herself was reported to have been caught using cocaine after her mother’s funeral. Last year, she was photographed snorting what was thought to be cocaine and, in another incident, smoking marijuana from a bong.
Her uncle, Gary Houston, admits during the trailer for the reality TV show that he is deeply worried about his niece: “I sympathize with what has happened with Krissi’s mother but I hope we don’t lose her.”
However, it would seem Bobbi Kristina Brown has few reliable people to turn to in her hour of need. Virtually orphaned since her mother’s death – her father has been in and out of rehab and the two of them no longer speak – she is surrounded by relatives who appear to have rather mixed motives.
Friends admit to being concerned for her: “Krissi was her mum’s best friend,” said schoolfriend Duane Allen.
“She talks about her mother all the time and says she still finds herself doing things and wanting to tell her mum. Krissi, her mother and Nick were a very tight-knit family.”
Bobbi Kristina Brown’s grandmother, Cissy Houston – Whitney’s 79-year-old mother – has condemned the relationship with Nick Gordon as “practically incest”, but some are unsurprised by Krissi reaching out to him.
“He was always there for her to make sure she was all right. I know he loves her,” says Duane Allen.
A family friend, who asked not to be named, described how the unlikely romance began: “Krissi needed someone to cuddle up to at night and invited Nick to sleep in her bed with her.
“The first night they kissed, there was a fair amount of alcohol involved. They both felt weird about developing feelings for each other because they are sort of siblings, but a few drinks changed things and it’s been on ever since.”
Bobbi Kristina Brown and Nick Gordon still refer to Whitney Houston as “our mother” when they make frequent comments on Twitter together.
Family relationships aside, aspiring rapper and model Nick Gordon, who was pictured on Twitter with a gun earlier this year, is not everyone’s idea of a wholesome partner for a recently bereaved teenager.
There have been rumors about him taking drugs, and many are questioning his relationship with a fragile young woman set to inherit her mother’s fortune, an estimated $11 million, over the next ten years.
However, Bobbi Kristina Brown seems devoted to Nick Gordon.
“She’s caught Nick-itis,” one of her cousins joked.
“Krissi will be the first to tell you she hates being away from Nick even for a few hours,” adds a friend.
“That scares their aunt Pat Houston [Whitney’s best friend and sister-in-law – she married Whitney’s brother Gary] because she sees the same kind of addictive relationship between Krissi and Nick that Whitney had with Bobby. Those sorts of relationships can be very destructive.
“As much as they can’t stand to be apart, they do fight a lot.”
Evidence of this came when the pair were in a car accident last month, said to have been caused by their arguing.
A former school friend says: “Pat is begging them to wait before they even think about getting married, but Krissi insists she is very grown up for her age because she had to act as a parent to her own parents. She’s headstrong, defiant and determined to make it work with Nick.”
Rumors of their engagement first surfaced in August when she started wearing one of her mother’s rings – a giant sapphire and diamonds – on her wedding finger.
Earlier this month, Cissy Houston went to court to try to delay Bobbi Kristina Brown getting hold of any of the money from her mother’s will.
In court documents lodged in Atlanta, Cissy Houston claimed her granddaughter “is a highly visible target for those who would exert undue influence over her inheritance and/or seek to benefit from the respondent’s resources and celebrity”.
Cissy Houston is also said to have pulled out of attending a recent tribute to Whitney because she did not want to see Bobbi Kristina and Nick Gordon being openly affectionate.
Music industry executive Robert Tencer, who knew both Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, says Bobbi Kristina is surrounded by “enablers” – people who make constant excuses for their addictions.
“Her father is an enabler. There were stories he would use his daughter to get Whitney’s money when she was still alive. He spends money like it’s going out of fashion. It’s extremely suspicious that she is engaged to her adopted brother. The big question is, who is guiding Krissi?”
Bobbi Kristina Brown and Nick Gordon live in a $1million three-bedroom town house in Alpharetta, Atlanta, which was Whitney Houston’s home.
Officially, Bobbi Kristina Brown lives under the guardianship of the formidable Pat Houston, who is a trustee of Whitney’s will and lives close by. But while Pat Houston, 59, is a mother herself and might appear to be the most responsible person for the role, questions have been asked about her motives, too.
Pat Houston brokered a dubious deal to profit from footage of Whitney’s funeral service, and is also alleged to be involved in the leaking of pictures to an American tabloid of the Los Angeles hotel room where Whitney died of a heart attack, thought to have been caused by drugs.
Cissy Houston, a religious Baptist, was said to be furious with Pat, accusing her of cashing in on her daughter’s death.
However, Cissy Houston has agreed to do a tell-all book about her daughter’s life for a six-figure sum.
Bobby Brown, meanwhile, seems keen to exploit interest in the Houston family. Already a reality-show veteran, Bobby Brown signed up last month to do a third series based around a new tour and his family life. This is separate to Bobbi Kristina Brown’s show.
Whitney Houston’s phenomenal success made her the family’s cash cow. She sold 170 million records worldwide and her biggest hit, I Will Always Love You, is the best-selling single of all time by a female artist.
And yet she did not die a wealthy woman. Her drug addiction cost her dear, she paid a wage to most members of her family, and her homes were remortgaged.
Whitney Houston staged frequent comebacks, but years of drug and alcohol abuse had impaired her once-incredible voice. By the end of her life, Whitney Houston was said to be living on hand-outs authorized by her record company boss and mentor Clive Davis.
It seems that, like her friend Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston is now worth more dead than alive. But, unlike Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston did not write her own songs, so most of the money raised by the re-release of her albums goes to the songwriters. Her family are having to find inventive new ways to keep money coming in.
Bobbi Kristina Brown harbors her own ambitions to be a star. Having dueted with her mother on stage, she is understood to be in talks about a recording contract. She also had a recent part in a U.S. television comedy for which she attracted good reviews.
Her friend Duane Allen says: “Krissi is really talented in her own right. The reality show should open lots of doors for her. She’s approaching everything positively, and she has her own name to make. I think she’s doing well – better than I could have expected.”