The iconic Whitney Houston left an indelible mark on the world. From the moment she was first introduced to the music scene, clad in evening attire, pristine vocals punctuated with perfect diction, it was clear that a star was on the horizon. It wasn’t long before Houston became the pop star she would always be remembered as.

In honor of what would have been her 59th birthday, here are eight reasons we will always love Whitney Houston.

1. Her shade was unmatched

Whitney Houston was a Jersey girl through and through. A huge part of being from the Garden State is possessing an unmatched level of moxie, grit and sass. While she was known as an industry darling, one thing that always accompanied her was an iconic level of shade, like the time she told Wendy Williams, “watch what you say,” among other choice words.

2. She undoubtedly inspired other North Jersey icons to success

Houston grew up in a then-middle-class area of northern New Jersey. But overall, even at that time, the northern part of the state was home to some of its toughest neighborhoods. While inspiration might have been scarce in those parts, seeing someone who grew up nearby turn into a global superstar could certainly have influenced some of our fan favorites like Lauryn Hill and Queen Latifah, both also from Newark.  

3. She made the national anthem a bop

Few musicians have had the gall to challenge the Star Spangled Banner,” such as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar rendition and Marvin Gaye’s version that makes you want to bust a two-step. Anytime a contemporary artist is tapped to sing the national anthem, viewers might hope to receive a jazzed-up version of the patriotic song. But, Whitney Houston didn’t add anything.

She merely stood and sang in such a way that prompted Arista Records to release her version as a single with all proceeds donated to the American Red Cross Crisis Fund during the Persian Gulf War. And in 2001, it was re-released with proceeds benefiting the New York Fraternal Order of Police and The New York Firefighters 9/11 Disaster Relief Fund.

4. Her fashion

Houston began her career as a pageant participant and model. This grace and fashion savvy remained evident through her matriculation as a singer. As she made her entrance into the music industry, Houston inspired big, bold curls, floppy hair bows, tight pants and tough leather jackets with an attitude to match.

5. The way she loved other Black women singers

One thing Houston did was love and uplift other Black women singers, especially those younger than her, whom she affectionately referred to as her babies. Some of her babies included members of TLC and Brandy Norwood, whose Fairy Godmother she iconically portrayed in the 1997 version of Cinderella for The Wonderful World of Disney series on ABC.

She also showcased an immense amount of love for peers like her good friend, CeCe Winans and elders like Chaka Khan. One look at Houston’s video for her version of “I’m Every Woman” proves that she was true to Black women’s empowerment and love for her fellow songbirds.

6. Her voice and music

The award-winning, chart-topping diva gave hit after hit throughout her career. The timeless songs live on in unimaginable ways. From the bone-chilling way she led her own funeral procession with the playing of her “I Will Always Love You,” to the way people often joke about learning their worth to the tune of “The Greatest Love of All,” her catalog was unmatched. 

Recently, emperor of R&B Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds began dedicating a portion of his live show to tributing Houston through the songs he’d written for her, including “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “Exhale” among others. Watching a star of his magnitude never fail to breathe life back into her songs adds layers to the legacy, especially when he hosted his Wating to Exhale tribute complete with Houston anecdotes that let fans in just a little more.

7. Her giving spirit

Houston made enough money early in her career to have retired and live the rest of her days as a wealthy woman. Instead, she continued to sing and use a great portion of those funds charitably. She donated both time and money to AIDS research at the height of the endemic. She helped to bring awareness to apartheid in South Africa. She also heavily supported the United Negro College Fund, The American Red Cross and Children’s Defense Fund. In 1989, she founded her charity, Whitney Houston Foundation for Children.

8. Her legacy continues to permeate the culture

Houston’s legacy is embedded in the culture of so many things like poetry, books, art and clothing. Her calming, crisp vocals are also an obvious inspiration for many singers today who study her grace and diction to command stages.

She may have left this world in 2012, but there’s no denying that Whitney Houston built a lasting legacy, one that won’t soon dissipate no matter how much time passes.