Harper’s Bazaar’s Surprisingly Honest Portrayal of Amy Winehouse

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Photo: Bryan Adams for Harper's Bazaar

Now that the collaborative collection Amy Winehouse did for Fred Perry is hitting stores for the fall 2010 season, the girl has to do interviews and sit for photo shoots with lady magazines. It's not a bad position to be in, actually. Lady magazines tend not to be probing operations — they want to write nice, happy, positive things over a quick salad or afternoon tea. The usually upbeat Harper's Bazaar got WiHo for their November issue, which also includes interviews with Michelle Obama and Christina Hendricks, and their profile of her reads like one of the most honest to have run in the magazine in some time. Maybe they couldn't resist sharing the less flattering moments of their time with her because being on set with her was, well, like this:


Just before Winehouse goes to change for the next shot, I see her gulping down a big glass of wine. "Not," she says aloud, "that I'm a rock-star alkie."

I have no idea what prompted this, but I can say that 45 minutes later, she is changed. She is physically unstable, wobbly in high block heels. Soon, she begins a chorus-girl routine for the camera—complete with cha-chas and pirouettes. "Hurry up, Bryan!" she shouts. "This is like a three-hour-long blood extraction!" She hikes her black-and-white-checked miniskirt up and shakes her hips.

The shoot wraps, and Winehouse walks unsteadily from the set.

One of Winehouse's representatives sat in on the interview, which isn't uncommon with really major celebrities. But the person couldn't help that WiHo, reporter Polly Vernon writes, "is just not ... present. She is distracted and vague. My most straightforward questions confuse her."


Tell me about the Fred Perry project. It seems like you really knew what you wanted from it.

"Ve'y much so. Ve'y much so. And that's been the whole thing. We've pretty much done like up to autumn/winter 2012, and I'm like, 'Have we?' Yeah!"

It was easy?

"Mmm-hmmm. Yeah, yeah, it was not hard at all, not hard at all, because, like ..."

Someone hands her a crayfish salad and removes the empty soup pot from her hands. "Thank you, baby!" she says to the provider of the salad. She turns back to me.

"I knew exactly what I wanted. And I love Fred Perry so much. I was honored that they would even, like, 'Do you want to come and do a line?' Me? Like, me?" She stabs a finger into her chest. "Yeah!" she adds.

The conversation continued:


Okay. Do you consider yourself a style icon?

"A style, like, what?"

A style icon, I repeat.

"Style, like ... ?"

Icon!

"No, of course not!"

But you are! People have altered the way they look as a consequence of your look. Tattoos have gained new currency; heavy eyeliner is widely imitated.

"Uh-huh. I don't think that's true. I just dress like ... I'm an old black man. Sorry!" she says. "Like I'm an old Jewish black man. I just dress like it's still the '50s."

Who inspires you? I ask. But Winehouse is distracted. She has dropped a bit of crayfish on the bedding beneath her.

"I just got prawn on Bryan Adams's cover," she says, aghast. She dabs at it with a napkin.

He'll forgive you.

"Do you reckon he will, though?"

Definitely.

"What are my inspirations ... ? Elizabeth Taylor."

You want to look like Taylor?

"Not really. She had purple eyes. That's weird. Um ..."

She pauses, then warms to a line of thought: "Thelonious Monk. Charlie Mingus. Miles Davis ... Thelonious Monk again, and then rappers that are around right now, like Nas, um, um, Busta Rhymes, and Mos Def."

Any style inspirations?

"I don't know." She seems exasperated. "I like ..." She reaches around for a fashion reference. She finds one. "Chanel."

So maybe she remembered, in that moment, that Karl Lagerfeld put on a Chanel pre-fall show inspired by her, in which all the models wore beehive hair 'dos. Maybe the politic thing for Winehouse to say when asked about her style inspirations would have been that she likes Fred Perry. But perhaps Fred Perry is enormously easygoing and doesn't really care what she says. Vernon writes that she discussed what it was like working with Winehouse on a line with a Fred Perry rep, and he told her she was "a delight." But stories like this Bazaar one could be better for all involved than the things that used to come out regularly about Winehouse, like this.

AMY WINEHOUSE: UNPLUGGED [Harper's Bazaar]