Whitney Houston’s ‘Greatest Love of All’ girl is all grown upby Chuck Arnold
Whitney Houston gave the greatest break of all to one 9-year-old New Jersey girl 34 years ago.
That girl was Keara Hailey Gordon, now 43, who played the young Whitney in the 1986 music video for her No. 1 smash “Greatest Love of All.” But Gordon didn’t even know who the pop superstar was when she first heard about the audition.
“I was like, ‘Oh, who is that?’ ” says Gordon, who now lives in Metuchen, NJ. “I was young, and it was her first album. So then they showed me her ‘How Will I Know’ video, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I know who that is!’ ”
Houston’s blockbuster self-titled debut — which featured “Greatest Love of All,” “How Will I Know” and “Saving All My Love for You,” among other hits — was released 35 years ago on Feb. 14, 1985. To celebrate the album’s anniversary, a two-LP color vinyl edition — complete with a hard-cover photo and lyric book — will be released May 1, right before Houston’s May 2 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
But Houston is also getting some Valentine’s Day love on Friday with the release of a remastered HD version of her “Greatest Love of All” video.
Recalling the making of the video, Gordon says, “It was my first professional gig, and it was only, like, my second or third audition. I went to the audition, and there were a lot of other little girls there, and we had to sing a song on camera. I sang ‘Home’ from ‘The Wiz,’ and I had to do it a cappella. And from what I heard, when Whitney saw the video, she wanted me immediately.”
But when Gordon showed up for the video shoot at the Apollo Theater, turned out there was one more person she had to audition for: Houston herself. “So I had to actually learn the song ‘Greatest Love of All,’ come back the next day and sing it for Whitney. I can still see her face. She had a big smile on her face, and she said, ‘I want her.’ So I got to be her.”
Gordon says that she was “so intimidated” by Houston at first, until the diva showed how down-to-earth she really was. “I had to stay overnight in a hotel,” she says, “and it was my first time away from my house that I can remember. I wanted to go home, and I started to cry, and then she came up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘It’ll be OK, baby. Before you know it, you’ll be home tomorrow. You’ll get to see your dad and your brother and sister, and everything will be fine.’ And I just stopped crying immediately.”
Now a drama teacher at the Pingry School in Short Hills, NJ, with a husband and two sons, Gordon still carries on Houston’s legacy eight years after her shocking death.
“She kind of changed my life,” she says. “She showed me how to present myself as a black woman.”