As if stepping out of big sis Whitney’s shadow wasn’t hard enough, the singer has had to face vicious rumours too 
Interview: Alison Grinter

You’re 26 years old and putting out your first album. Why have we not heard from you before?
I’ve just worked behind the scenes, writing and producing. I’ve done lots of stuff for television, like ads and jingles. Until three years ago, I really felt the best place for me was writing for other people. It was only on the insistence of the former chairman of Sony [Paul Russell] that I should put out an album and I said: “When I have something to say, I will.”

So what’s the album about?
It’s a musical autobiography. It basically talks about love in its various forms and how it has impacted on my life. Everything from romantic love, love gone wrong; loss of love; and coming to terms with loving oneself.

Does writing jingles give you a good grounding in music?
Oh yeah. First of all it keeps you on your toes. You have to be quick, you have to be able to express a whole lot of emotion in a few seconds. It teaches you to be quite disciplined. And it’s a lucrative profession. It’s one of those jobs where you can do very well and still remain anonymous. For a long time that worked very well for me.

Why was remaining anonymous good?
I’m a very private person and getting up in front of people and having them assess what I do in a public realm didn’t come easily for me. But it’s testament to how much I love music and this business that I can look fear in the face and move forward.

I’m surprised you’re so shy about performing because your press release says you’ve been “delighting audiences since you were six” in church choirs.
But you don’t really think of that as performing. You’re just doing what your heart and soul tells you to do. Even if you hit a bad note you’re surrounded by love in church.

You’re Whitney Houston’s half sister through your father. Did you have much to do with her growing up?
Not really – but then there’s a 20-year difference between the two of us. I guess, apart from paths crossing for various family functions, we live very different lives.

There are all these rumours online that you had a sex change and that your real name is Wellington Houston. You don’t seem to have refuted it. So is it true?
[Laughs] No, it’s not. Those things that have been printed have been so hurtful, and I’m not gonna lie and say I’m impervious to these sorts of things. But I’ve come into this business and I’ve got a job to do. At least they’re talking about me on some level, but I guess I have my work cut out for me in terms of letting people know who I am.

You sued over false claims that you’d had an affair with US TV host Matt Lauer – is that right?
I had to make some sort of a statement about that because it was one of the first allegations that came out. I was trying to finish an album on my label and I get a call from my management who say: “Hey, have you seen this?” And within a matter of hours my home is surrounded by paparazzi. Anyone would think I was giving refuge to Britney Spears or something.

So why not sue over the Wellington Houston allegations?
What I learnt from the [Matt Lauer] situation was that you can make a statement and deny things and some of them will go away but the fall out from that was that people said I was protesting too much so there must be some truth to it, or the reason I’m not admitting to this alleged affair is because I probably got paid off to keep my mouth shut. And they also said I was using the scandal to promote my music. It’s very hard. It goes beyond schoolyard bullying when the entire world is looking at you.

Why can’t Whitney just come out and say “all that stuff about Alexis being a man called Wellington is bogus”?

I think Whitney has got enough on her plate to deal with her own life and her own career. You know, I’m a big girl surrounded by family who love and support me. I wouldn’t be here doing this if I didn’t think I was capable. I don’t think God would ever put anything on my shoulders that I can’t handle.

How is Whitney these days – is she well?
I hear from people around who’ve seen her and work with her that she is doing her own thing day by day. But I’m really not in a position to comment on what’s happening with her cos I really don’t know her personally.