After five years of struggling with her health, Amy Winehouse made a dramatic comeback at the 2014 BRIT Awards with the help of a personal trainer and an eating disorder specialist, as well as new music and new looks. But even before her career resurgence, Winehouse had already made a name for herself as one of the most interesting, if not greatest, comeback artists of all time. So what was behind her comeback? Why did she lose weight? And how did she do it? Let’s take a look.
The Early Years
Winehouse was born Adrienne Lucy Jones on June 25th, 1985 in London, England. Her parents were musicians who performed in various pubs and clubs across London. Adrienne joined the family business at an early age, tagging along to watch her parents play and learn the instruments. She was already showing musical talent by the time she was three years old, and her parents encouraged her to sing and draw, especially since it was thought that she might be able to act as well. But music was not Adrienne’s only passion. She also had a strong desire to learn martial arts, and when she was 11, her parents bought her a judo gi (specially designed kanzashi swords for japanese martial arts). Sadly, her parents never saw Adrienne use her swords, as she threw them away soon after getting them. She did, however, use her other weapons—her voice and her wit—to good effect, landing her an uncredited role alongside Keanu Reeves in the 2006 film John Wick, which was released in February 2007.
After that, Winehouse’s career really took off. She released her debut album, Amy Winehouse, in May 2007, followed by a best-selling debut single, “Let Me Love You,” in November 2007. It was a massive achievement for a teenager who had only been acting in local stage productions when she was 15. The album went on to become the best-selling first album by a British female artist in history. In 2008, she won the Best British Female Solo Artist award at the MOBO Awards, and that summer, she released her second studio album, Back to Black. The album was named after its lead single, “Death to My Career,” and was widely accepted as her finest hour. It became a landmark album, selling over 500,000 copies in the UK to date and going on to become one of the best-selling debut albums of all time in the UK. In the US, it also became the soundtrack to the 2008 movie Step-brothers, starring Richard Simmons and Ben Stiller, which premiered two weeks after its UK release.
But although Back to Black was a critical and commercial success, it was also a turning point in Winehouse’s career. The album’s success was somewhat of a double-edged sword, as it made her a household name, but it also opened her up to even more scrutiny and criticism. Her third album, Frank, was released in November 2011 and was inspired by her short-lived marriage to film producer, Mark Ronson. While the album was received relatively well by critics, its sales were disappointing, selling only 100,000 copies in the UK to date.
But even before the release of her third album, Winehouse had been experimenting with her diet and exercise regimes. In 2010, she began working with a personal trainer who introduced her to the idea of intermittent fasting, where you don’t eat during certain time periods, allowing your body to reap the benefits of reduced insulin levels and accelerated weight loss. She also began incorporating more herbal supplements into her routine, particularly garcinia cambogia extract, which is known to boost your body’s ability to metabolize fats and carbohydrates.
The fruits of her training were most apparent at the 2014 BRIT Awards, where she presented an award and tore off her dress to reveal a black corset and lace lingerie underneath. The move drew plenty of attention, but it was also the start of a dramatic comeback for the singer.
Two years later, at the 2016 BRIT Awards, Winehouse looked like a different person. Still sporting her trademark bangs and oversized sunglasses, she made a beeline for the microphone, grabbing it before her dress could even hit the ground. She dedicated her performance to “all the haters” who doubted her ability to come back from her near-fatal 2007 overdose. “To all the people who told me I couldn’t do it and said I was wasting my time, all the trolls on the internet who said I was full of it and told me my music was rubbish,” she belted out. “To my best friend Emily who listened to every song, every record, and supported me every step of the way. And to my fans, I love you.”
Although Winehouse had taken her time coming back, she had finally decided to make a comeback. She explained in an interview with The Guardian in January 2017 that “[e]ver since my relapse, I’ve been thinking about how I could make a proper comeback. I want to prove to people that I’m not the same person that I was before. That I’ve changed and I’ve grown.” She also revealed that she had cut off all connections with former collaborators and friends, saying “I’ve blocked everyone. I can’t stand to think about anyone else but me right now. I’ve got to do this for myself.”
After the incredible success of her early albums, Amy Winehouse struggled with heroin addiction for more than a decade, before finally reaching a place of recovery in 2013. But even then, she was determined to prove that she could be a force to be reckoned with, and she started working with a coach who helped her to shed the excess pounds that she gained during her years of addiction. She started working with her coach, Adam Winch, in May 2016 and lost a massive amount of weight during the next six months. By August, she had lost over 20 pounds, dropping from a size 16 to a size 8. It was around this time that she also decided to change her name to Amy Winehouse. Even her family and friends were astonished at her new look. “I’ve never seen her so happy and carefree,” her longtime friend, Charlotte Hayes, told The Guardian. “She changed so much; she was so thin and now she’s so filled out. She used to say that no man would ever want to buy her a drink, but now I think she’s got a chance. She’s so funny and charming. She definitely has something new to offer.”
By September 2017, Winehouse had lost a total of 40 pounds and was looking incredibly chic in a white dress that clung to her curves. Soon after, she dropped another 5 pounds, and her stunning looks caused Twitter to explode with compliments. She was also seen leaving a London nightclub with a man who apparently had not seen her in years. The couple were spotted cuddling and chatting happily as they made their way to a mini-motorcycle rally, held as part of the International Motorcycle Festival at Brands Hatch, England. “I couldn’t be happier. I just want to enjoy this moment,” she said at the time. “This is crazy. This is so unexpected. I’m just trying to keep my head above water.” And she certainly was. In 2018, Winehouse had another incredible year, releasing multiple singles and touring the world, supporting her new album, Beautiful Life, which was released in April 2018.
But even before she started her comeback, Winehouse had made a name for herself as one of the most interesting, if not greatest, comeback artists of all time. Why did she lose weight? How did she do it? Let’s take a look.
The Reasons Behind The Comeback
Forbes has put together a great list of the top 10 reasons why some famous people decided to come back, noting that “[t]he vast majority of famous people who came back after disappearing for a while did so because they wanted to prove they were still capable of being good artists.”
Winehouse clearly fits the bill here. She was fortunate enough to have a strong support network – particularly her parents and husband, Joe, whom she married in 2015 – who instilled in her from a young age the value of hard work and determination. She also credits her music for helping her to stay sober during a time where there was a strong chance she could have relapsed. “My addiction took over my life. I didn’t function properly,” Winehouse told Hello! magazine in 2013. “I couldn’t write a song, I couldn’t perform, I couldn’t interact with people…I felt like I was letting myself and my fans down. When I got clean, I had so much energy and wanted to prove to everyone that I could still be someone worth listening to.”