Dionne Bromfield leans on the screen during a conversation on Zoom and recounts a moment 10 years ago when she received news that would change her life forever. On a sunny July day, the 15-year-old singer was waiting on stage. On tour in Wales, she supported the boy The Wanted, the atmosphere behind the scenes is full of energy before each show. But something felt that day. The people were unusually quiet and no one would see her. Eventually she was told something was wrong: “This is Amy.”
Amy Winehouse, whose remarkable, too-short career ended in death a decade ago this month, was a teenage godmother, friend and mentor. Winehouse nurtured Bromfield’s growing vocal abilities and helped her break into the infamous competitive industry. Years after her death, Bromfield couldn’t listen to Amy’s music, let alone think about it. After two albums and a show that featured the CBBC Friday Download show, the singer, who many have labeled as one to watch and perform live on television with Winehouse, has moved away from music.
“You don’t know if you really want to go back there,” the 25-year-old Bromfield says of the period around Winehouse’s death. “Talking about it for the last nine and a half years actually seems almost impossible. It seemed to me that I didn’t want people to see me as weak. ” However, it has recently changed. After years of holding it all back, Bromfield made a television documentary about Winehouse to address her grief (this is one of two about the singer this month; the BBC film looks at her life through the eyes of her mother Janis).
Amy Winehouse and I have a heartwarming and moving look at the fairytale situation Bromfield found herself in when Winehouse took her under its wing, and her belated efforts to mourn. She also sees Bromfield wanting to return to the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, the historic venue where Winehouse next appeared next to her in public. Finally, Bromfield saw her alive. “Everything felt really, really good,” he recalls. “That night I told her,‘ I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done for me. “I never told her – I thought she just knew. But that night I concretely felt I had to say it. And I’m so happy.” Three days later, Winehouse was found dead. 27 years old.
The effects have been rolling down Bromfield’s life ever since. She didn’t sing for a few years and threw herself into a difficult relationship. Although she says she was not depressed, she had “very low times”. Friends felt he was holding them back. Filming the documentary may seem like a commercial, but listening to Bromfield, it feels like she needs something like that to force her to turn to the very public but unspoken trauma she has experienced.
Bromfield was six years old when they met. Winehouse befriended Julie Din, Bromfield’s mother, through the Jewish community in north London. “My mom was older than her, but I think Amy liked that she was a strong woman,” she says. “A lot of women like that she tried to keep to herself.” As a daring 22-year-old, Winehouse was already bigger than life (though it will be a while before she’s truly famous) and Dionne shone. She liked to focus on Amy’s laser focus: “If Amy really liked me, she’d be invested in you.”
Dionne’s childlike sincerity was for Winehouse an escape from the men she worked with; As a minor, Dionne didn’t care that Winehouse was becoming famous. “It would be like, oh, Amy’s on TV, whatever,” he says. “I was really only interested in Amy, whom I saw around the house – the usual Amy, Amy, who would count down and try to calculate the numbers.” The couple went for walks with varying success, hung out in the garden and cooked. ‘She loved to cook. If I could convince her to finish what she was cooking – because it was hard to keep her in one place – then oh, my God, it would all be amazing. Then I would add two spices too, and they would be like, oh, okay, that’s not very good … “
Bromfield says it’s as foreign as the idea of Amy Winehouse watching daily television to those whose memories of her are inextricably linked to the disordered paparazzi and extensive documented drug use, but she highlighted the singer’s maternal instinct. He recalls a rare disagreement over an ankle Bromfield bought for £ 9. She was like, “You can’t wear this, you’re too young,” because of some ancient story or something, I don’t know. She was just like, ‘You’re not wearing it!’ “Bromfield relented, but Winehouse forced him to give her £ 9.
When Bromfield became interested in music, Winehouse jumped into the role of mentor and eventually signed on as a teenager with his newly released label Lioness. “She would give me assignments – she would say, ‘Listen to this song. And the next time I see you, tell me three things you learned when you listened to them’ – be it the lyrics, the melody or something else about the performers. “Winehouse continued to run the trap in an industry that didn’t always avoid it on its own. By signing a contract with Bromfield, she was able to protect her from the worst and offer her the guidance Winehouse might have wanted. She also protected Bromfield from the worst addiction. “I’ve never seen her drunk,” Bromfield says. “Never.”
Sometime that July night, Bromfield found himself on stage. “I don’t think I’ve really processed what I’ve already been told. I remember thinking that Amy wouldn’t want me in the dumpster downstairs. I’m here now, so that’s what we do. I just kind of stood there – surprised it’s that I even remembered the words of my songs. ”It was far from three days earlier when Winehouse and Bromfield were dancing and laughing in front of the Roundhouse crowd in Camden. Over the next few months, Bromfield says she “just existed,” hiding her true emotions. In the documentary, she visits her old teacher Silvia Young, who tells her that she was not as successful as she thought. “She told me that that year [I had become] very seriously, ”he says. “That I lost a little carefree side. It was weird to hear that because I thought I had everything under control. I thought no one could see. «
Bromfield isn’t sure why she was so determined not to talk about Winehouse “to the point that even someone who told me her name would simply shut it down,” but she thinks it’s partly because she doubted people’s intentions and was afraid to look for juicy details instead of actually caring for either her or the Winehouse. For a while, she felt pretty angry when people tried to tell her how excited they were. “It’s not like a normal death when it’s private. It’s a public thing, “he says. “I think everyone wanted to know that, which is why I tried to keep it to myself as much as possible.”
In the film, he talks to a variety of people: a grief counselor, a support group for people who have lost loved ones due to alcohol and addiction, and Amy’s personal assistant, Jevan Levy, who was with Bromfield in Wales when the news broke. You almost feel the weight lift off Bromfield’s shoulders when he realizes they’ve been experiencing similar feelings for 10 years. She tells Levy that she wants to talk to him sooner.
“It seems crazy to me that the easiest thing was to get over it, just a conversation,” he says. “All of this could be avoided by talking.” At the beginning of the film, Bromfield says her world collapsed when she heard the news about Winehouse. Finally, it seems he can start remembering the good times.
Amy Winehouse and I: Dionne’s Story will air on MTV UK, Monday, July 26 at 10 p.m.