Reality TV has found its place in just about every life scenario imaginable, but watching "The Houstons: On Our Own," it's hard not to wonder if grieving families should be spared its treatment.
The series, premiering tonight on Lifetime, began filming only three months after Whitney Houston's death. It features Bobbi Kristina Brown, the singer's 19-year-old daughter, visiting her mother's grave for the first time, drinking wine, and announcing her "engagement" to her childhood friend Nick Gordon -- all in episode one.
Is it too much, too soon? Not according to Pat Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and former manager, who appears in the series with her family. She defended the show in a recent interview with ABCNews.com:
ABC: Let's talk about having the show follow you to Whitney's grave. What made you decide to do that, and do you think the cameras changed that moment?
Houston: Nothing would have changed because she had passed and we were grieving. It wouldn't have mattered if it had been then, if it had been six months later, even now. The emotion would still be there, because we really do miss her.
We were going to be there for the weekend for Mother's Day. That same weekend was Gospel Fest, which Cissy [Whitney's mother] is always a part of, and Gary [Pat's husband] was actually performing. So we were going to be in New Jersey and we had not been to the gravesite as a family. It was just the right time to go.
ABC: Your relationship with Bobbi Kristina evolves during this show so that you're now acting as her mother, telling her she shouldn't spend so much time with Nick, telling her not to drink. What has that been like for you and your own family?
Houston: Even when her parents were living, I was always Auntie Pat. Growing up with a lineage of women who have always looked after you and your nieces -- that's how I grew up. So I've always been there for her. It's a little different now because I really have to be present in her life. I can't just be Auntie Pat.
ABC: What has that been like for your daughter Rayah, to share you with Bobbi Kristina?
Houston: That's been her reality since she was born. She's always had to share her mother with someone else. Even being Whitney's manager and having to travel and be away from her. … You know, she's older now, and she watches and she's mentioned to her father and other family members, 'I don't want to lose my mommy but I understand that she has to be there for Krissy.'
They love one another very much, but it's something I have to pay strong attention to, because Rayah is 14. She's coming into her own, she's just starting high school, there's peer pressure and everything else that goes along with that. It is something that I have to think about every single day.
ABC: You know I have to ask this -- what's the status of Bobbi Kristina's relationship with Nick?
Houston: [Laughs] Well, you just have to watch the show!
ABC: OK, sure, but we hear these reports all the time -- they're engaged, they're broken up -- you see them together, so what is their relationship now?
Houston: Let me just say this. You hear the expression "I'm grown" on the show. A lot of teenagers, when they hit 18, they think they're grown. They think they know it all, they think they know about relationships. And you talk to them and you try and navigate them and guide them, because you've been there. I don't expect a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old to think like I do because they haven't reached adult status yet.
So, you just have to live by example and hope that they hear you so they won't get hurt, their feelings will not get hurt. But they will. It will be up and down relative to their friendship relationship, because that's basically what it is. It's a very, very strong friendship. Very strong.
ABC: What about her career aspirations, becoming a singer or an actress or both? How do you feel about that?
Houston: If Bobbi Kristina were to work in Starbucks or work in a library, I would be happy with her doing that, if that's what she wanted to do. As an actress, she's phenomenal, and she has proven that. But it's going to take some time. I don't want to rush her into this business. She should really take time to get to know herself. She's had to live under the microscope for many, many years. Just losing her mother and then wanting to act, wanting to sing … if it's something that she truly wants to do, I will be there to support her. I just want her to take time.
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