‘I couldn’t speak about her for years’: my godmother, Amy Winehouse

Dionne Bromfield is leaning into the display screen as we speak on Zoom, recounting the second 10 years in the past when she obtained the information that will change her life for ever. On a sunny July day, the 15-year-old singer was ready to go on stage. She was supporting the boyband The Wished on tour in Wales, the ambiance backstage fizzing with vitality earlier than every present. Nevertheless, that day one thing felt off. Individuals have been unusually quiet, and nobody would meet her eyes. Finally, she was instructed one thing was unsuitable: “It’s Amy.”

Amy Winehouse, whose exceptional, all-too-brief profession ended along with her dying a decade in the past this month, had been {the teenager}’s godmother, buddy and mentor. Winehouse had nurtured Bromfield’s burgeoning vocal abilities and helped her break right into a notoriously aggressive trade. For years after her dying, Bromfield couldn’t take heed to Amy’s music, not to mention take into consideration her. After two albums and a stint presenting the CBBC present Friday Obtain, the singer who had been marked out by many as one to look at and carried out on dwell tv with Winehouse, stepped again from music.

“You don’t know if you happen to actually wish to return there,” says Bromfield, 25, of the interval round Winehouse’s dying. “Speaking about it has simply felt virtually not possible for the final 9 and a half years. I felt like I didn’t need folks to see me being weak”. Nevertheless, she not too long ago had a change of coronary heart. After years of conserving all the pieces in, Bromfield has made a TV documentary about Winehouse to handle her grief (it’s considered one of two in regards to the singer this month; a BBC movie seems to be at her life by means of the eyes of her mom, Janis).

Dionne Bromfield, 25, a decade after the dying of Amy Winehouse. {Photograph}: MTV/Doc Hearts / Photographer James Fry / MTV

Amy Winehouse and Me is a candy and shifting have a look at the fairytale scenario during which Bromfield discovered herself when Winehouse took her below her wing, and her belated efforts to mourn. It additionally sees Bromfield goal to return to the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, the historic venue the place Winehouse made her closing public look alongside her. It was the final time Bromfield would see her alive. “All the pieces felt actually, actually good,” she remembers. “I mentioned to her that evening, ‘I’m so grateful for all the pieces you’ve completed for me.’ I’d by no means, ever mentioned it to her earlier than – I assumed she simply knew. However that evening, particularly, I felt the necessity to say it. And I’m so comfortable I did.” Three days later, Winehouse was discovered lifeless. aged 27.

The results have rippled by means of Bromfield’s life ever since. She didn’t sing for a number of years and threw herself right into a troublesome relationship. Although she says she wasn’t depressed, she had “very low occasions”. Mates felt she was holding again from them. Making a documentary may seem to be a publicity seize however, listening to Bromfield, apparently she wanted one thing like this to drive her to handle the very public, but unstated, trauma she skilled.

Bromfield was six when the 2 met. Winehouse had befriended Julie Din, Bromfield’s mom, by means of the Jewish neighborhood in north London. “My mum was older than her, however I feel Amy favored the truth that she was a robust lady,” she says. “She tried to maintain a number of ladies like that round her.” As a brash 22-year-old, Winehouse was already bigger than life (although it could be a while earlier than she was actually well-known) and took a shine to Dionne. She beloved being the topic of Amy’s laser-like focus: “If Amy actually took a liking to you, she can be invested in you.”

For Winehouse, Dionne’s childlike honesty was an escape from the sure males she labored with; as a pre-teen, Dionne couldn’t care much less that Winehouse was changing into a star. “It might be like, oh, Amy’s on telly, no matter,” she says. “I used to be solely ever actually within the Amy I noticed round the home – the conventional Amy, the Amy that will put Countdown on and be attempting to do the numbers.” The pair would go for walks, hand around in the backyard and prepare dinner collectively, to various levels of success. “She beloved cooking. In case you might get her to complete what she was cooking – as a result of conserving her in a single place was fairly laborious – then oh, my gosh, all the pieces would style superb. Then she would add two seasonings too many, and also you’d be like, oh, OK, this isn’t excellent …”

As alien as the thought of Amy Winehouse watching daytime TV is perhaps for these of us whose reminiscences of her are inextricably linked to paparazzi photographs of her in disarray, and the a lot documented drug use, Bromfield says she introduced out the singer’s maternal instincts. She recollects a uncommon disagreement over a £9 anklet Bromfield had purchased. “She was like, ‘You can’t put on that, you’re too younger’, due to some historical story or one thing, I don’t know. She was identical to, ‘You’re not sporting it!’” Bromfield gave in, however she made Winehouse give her the £9.

Winehouse turned Bromfield’s godmother, mentor and buddy. {Photograph}: MTV/Dionne Bromfield

When Bromfield started to indicate an curiosity in music, Winehouse leapt into the function of mentor and ultimately signed {the teenager} to her fledgling document label, Lioness. “She would give me assignments – she can be like, ‘Take heed to this music. And subsequent time I see you, I would like you to inform me three belongings you’ve discovered from listening to it’ – whether or not it was lyrics, melody, or one thing in regards to the artists.” Winehouse went on to information her on the pitfalls of the trade, ones she herself hadn’t all the time prevented. By signing Bromfield, she was in a position to defend her from the worst of it, and supply steerage that maybe Winehouse wished she had had. She additionally shielded Bromfield from the worst of her addictions. “I by no means noticed her drunk,” Bromfield says. “By no means.”

One way or the other, on that July evening, Bromfield made it on stage. “I don’t suppose I’d actually processed what I’d simply been instructed.I keep in mind considering, Amy wouldn’t need me to be down within the dumps, I’m right here now so let’s simply do it. I simply type of stood there – I’m stunned I even remembered the phrases to my songs.” It was a far cry from three days earlier, when Winehouse and Bromfield had danced and laughed collectively in entrance of the Roundhouse crowd in Camden. For the following few months, Bromfield says she “simply existed”, conserving her true emotions hidden. Within the documentary she visits her previous head instructor, Sylvia Younger, who tells her she wasn’t as profitable as she thought. “She instructed me that that 12 months [I had become] very critical,” she says. “That I’d misplaced a little bit of the carefree facet to me. It was bizarre listening to that as a result of I assumed I had all the pieces below management. I assumed nobody might see.”

Bromfield isn’t certain why she was so decided to not speak about Winehouse “to the purpose the place even somebody saying her identify to me, I’d simply shut down”, however thinks it was partly as a result of she questioned folks’s intentions, and feared that they have been searching for juicy particulars relatively than really caring about both her or Winehouse. For some time, she felt fairly indignant when folks tried to inform her how a lot of a fan they’d been. “It’s not like a traditional dying the place it’s non-public. It’s a public factor,” she says. “I feel it was that everybody wished to find out about it, which made me attempt to preserve as a lot as attainable to myself.”

She speaks to numerous folks within the movie: a grief counsellor, a help group for individuals who have misplaced family members to alcohol and dependancy, and Amy’s private assistant, Jevan Levy, who was with Bromfield in Wales when the information broke. You’ll be able to virtually really feel the burden raise from Bromfield’s shoulders as she realises they’ve skilled related emotions for 10 years. She tells Levy that she needs they’d talked sooner.

“It’s loopy to me that the best factor to do to recover from it was simply speak,” she says. “All of this might have been prevented by speaking.” Firstly of the movie, Bromfield says her world crumbled when she heard the information about Winehouse. Lastly, it appears, she will be able to start to recollect the nice occasions.

Amy Winehouse and Me: Dionne’s Story will probably be proven on MTV UK, Monday 26 July at 10pm

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