From 2003 till 2010, Tracey Cahoon styled Amy Winehouse’s hair and created her iconic beehive hairstyle. She tells Joe Bromley the truth about the beehive as she auctions off a wig from Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good music video.
When Amy Winehouse was initially shooting, it was before Frank, her breakthrough album. At most, she was 17. She wore trilbies, flared pants, and scarves around her hair as Phil Knott, the photographer, took us around Portobello Market. I was immediately struck by Amy’s feistiness, beauty, and youthful voluptuousness and thought, “Wow, check her out.”
When the day was over, we returned to Phil’s studio. As we conversed in the changing room, she said, “Hey Trace, could you please give me a beehive?” “Oh my god, please sit down,” I said, then I backcombed her hair into the beehive and wrapped a small scarf around it. When she was a youngster, she was really into the beatnik thing and adored wearing scarves. I still recall thinking, “This is her,” when I looked at Amy.
I said, “Hey Phil, will you take a photograph of Amy—look at her!” as we hurried upstairs. After we concluded and resumed our regular lives, he took one Polaroid and presented it to me.
I didn’t work with Amy again until the Back to Black album. I got a call because [Amy’s stylist] Louise Winwood had requested me, and Amy just wanted loads of hair. We did the album cover, then worked on the video, and the beehive was born. We called it the eighth wonder of the world.
The beehive then just carried on through the rest of her career. I remember seeing people in parks with beehives and thinking ‘god this is a bit weird, but it’s a look!’ In 2008, Karl Lagerfeld even did a flipping fashion show with beehives. He loved her.
The first beehive was her hair backcombed up into a bouffant, but thereafter we would make it around one big hairpiece which we called her hair baby, and dress her fringe around the front. It’s quite a sensitive area because Amy did suffer from hair loss, and that transpired as her career moved on. It was very obvious what was going on with her. By the time it got to [the album] Back to Black she had lost so much hair I was quite shocked.
There were loads of amazing moments I worked on after that. One of the biggest was the Nelson Mandela gig in 2008, and Glastonbury that same year, when I put little cocktail umbrellas all around her hair. The Grammys was another amazing one as well — she won five.
I was putting stuff away one day and found one of Amy’s hairpieces from the You Know I’m No Good music video. I’ve kept every single hairpiece I’ve had throughout my career, but I was quite freaked out when I saw it. I am putting it up for auction on Friday because I have a 12-and-a-half-year-old son. It’s going to change his future.
Amy and I had a really beautiful relationship, I always felt like a big sister to her. Even one time she called me Mama. She would always ask for me and there were times I couldn’t be there, I found it hard. It’s heartbreaking that she’s not around. In my mind, she’s faked her death and is living in the Caribbean somewhere.