This story first appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. When Mara Brock Akil
was a girl of 11, in November 1981, she saw a copy of Seventeen with Whitney Houston
on the cover. The future pop icon wasn't known as a singer then but as a teen model -- one of the first African-Americans to grace the magazine's cover. The image made a huge impression on young Mara, then growing up in Kansas City, Mo. "It was like -- things are possible," she says.