She’s a drug-taking mess but still, critics and fans alike are fascinated by the troubled singer. Currently back in rehab, everyone wonders, will she stay and get her act together or be dead in a few months just like her incarcerated husband, Blake,
However, personal scandals, drug abuse and stupidity aside; Why teenagers still love her? The Guardian explores this question: This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday January 27 2008 on p29 of the Focus section.
With her bird-like frame, collage of sailor-style tattoos and, most recently, the ever-present crust of suspicious white powder caked around one of her nostrils, it’s safe to say that, for most parents, an Amy Winehouse poster would be an unpopular addition to their teenager’s bedroom wall.
(image source: gossipchick.com)
However, in the past six months you’d be hard pushed to find a newspaper or magazine that has not featured Winehouse plastered (in every sense of the word) across the front pages as she hurtles at full speed towards self-destruction.
Strangely, unlike other celebrities who have taken similar gambles with their health (Kate Moss, Britney Spears etc) Winehouse’s career as one of Britain’s greatest singing talents doesn’t seem to have taken much of a bashing. In the same week she was rushed to hospital after a reported drink-and-drug overdose, her Back to Black was confirmed as the biggest selling album of 2007. Front-page photographs of her patrolling the streets in blood-soaked ballet shoes sat above captions listing endless award nominations. Where there might have been universal disgust, instead it seems the world is torn between pity for Winehouse’s inability to take care of herself and admiration for her talent.
While Winehouse is the first to admit that her behaviour is not an admirable example to impressionable teenagers – ‘I’m not in this to be a fucking role model’ she told one interviewer – there does seem to have been an increase in the number of young women sporting her trademark heavy eyeliner, unkempt tangle of hair and even adorning their arms with the odd nautical tattoo.
So what is it about Winehouse that makes her so captivating? The past year has seen several iconic figures nosedive into depression, addiction or an inability to abide by the speed limit, yet it’s Winehouse who has kept our eyes peeled for news of her in the headlines, and Winehouse for whom many teenagers like myself sit with crossed fingers, hoping she’ll pull herself together and bounce back.
Perhaps part of her appeal is her honesty regarding her very obvious problems. So many celebrities appear to spend their lives trying to glaze over the rough patches in their lives to present a ‘clean’ image to the media – whether it be Victoria Beckham staunchly defending her ‘healthy attitude towards food and weight’ (though we’ve yet to see a photo of her tucking away a burger to put our minds at ease) or Lindsay Lohan rolling her Bambi eyes and moaning at how the press portray her as some kind of ‘wild girl’ when in fact she likes nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book.
Winehouse, on the other hand, makes no attempt to cover up the mess her life is in, and you only have to read the pitiful interviews with her father to gain an uncomfortable amount of insight into the heartache that drug addiction, an eating disorder and a husband locked away in prison bring to her loving parents who wonder where on earth they went wrong.
Honestly, I don’t think any of us would want to swap our lives for Winehouse’s. But maybe at times teenagers feel they can relate to some aspect of Winehouse’s plight – whether they be going out with a guy Dad can’t stand, or desperate to persuade Mum that a tattoo doesn’t screw up your chances of getting a decent job. However big a mess Winehouse makes of things, hundreds of messages of support from her fans reinforce that there are still people rooting for her. For teens, it’s a comforting message in a world that can often seem unforgiving – no matter how much you screw up, there will still be people who want you to shine.
Whether she likes it or not, eyeliner sales have proved that Winehouse certainly has quite a bit of influence over her teenage fans. It might be easy for parents to view that influence as potentially dangerous or unhealthy, but perhaps the Back to Black album in their daughter’s iTunes library doesn’t reflect a desire to snort cocaine Ã la Winehouse, but to be recognised not only for the homework they didn’t do and the pile of dirty plates and forks under their beds, but their talents and achievements as well.
It may also reflect an appreciation of talent – yes it’s been said a hundred times, but Winehouse has a talent that’s far too rare, and hopefully one day soon she’ll appreciate herself enough to make the most of it.