Amy Winehouse’s Dad Gets Candid In Exclusive Interview

Tonight, The Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala will be held at The Waldorf Astoria. Tony Bennett, Nas, Salaam Remi, and Elhadj "Moe" Kane will be honored. Jennifer Hudson, Wyclef Jean, and others will perform. It’s red carpet. It’s black tie. Celebrities abound.

Here’s what the Amy Winehouse Foundation is all about:
“The mission of the Amy Winehouse Foundation-US is supporting and empowering children and young adults in need through music therapy and music education and works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people. Special honorees will receive an Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Award for their work in helping to inspire greatness in others.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation was formally established in the UK in 2011 by Amy’s family in honor of her memory and her passion for helping children in need. To date, the UK Foundation has allocated over £500,000 to various organizations.”

The Amy Winehouse Inspiration Awards and Gala will be the first of what Mitch Winehouse and Janis Winehouse Collins – Amy’s father and mother – plan to be an annual event raising awareness and resources for the Amy Winehouse Foundation in the US. All money raised in the US, including from this event, will go to US programs.

I caught up with Mitch Winehouse yesterday and asked him about the event and Amy. 

What’s going on and why is it going on?
It’s hopefully going to be the first of the annual Amy Winehouse Inspiration Award galas. We’re honoring Tony Bennett, Nas, and a couple of other people, and we have Jennifer Hudson performing.

How did you get from a time of grief and wrapping your mind around it, to the point where you’re devoting your time doing good?
That’s a good question, and I’m really not quite sure. When I think back to 18 months ago, it was a very bad time for me and my family, but we spoke about it, and we decided to turn this very bad thing into something good. It’s been very difficult, but we’ve managed to do it.

What were the last several years of Amy’s life like?
Amy was clean for two years and 10 months. The last six weeks of her life – the last five weeks and five days – were spent without drinking. In the last two days, she drank quite a lot, but she had been moving toward abstinence and never made it. The last two years of Amy’s life was far from being a hopeless situation. We were in a very, very good place, and Amy told me she was moving toward abstinence.

Quite frankly, had she died in 2007, 2008, I would have put my hands up and said “fair enough” because she was very ill, and there was a sense of helplessness then. But she proved that she could deal with her drug addiction, and we felt she was moving in the same way with the alcohol as well, but it just wasn’t.

How about her achievements, the fact that people are still talking about her and will forever? What is her legacy?
Her musical legacy really takes care of itself. She’s a six-time Grammy winner. The five times she won in 2008, I believe was a record, the first time a female artist had won five Grammys in one go. She was a fantastic achiever, a great person, and we’re very, very proud of her. But we feel her musical legacy will really look after itself. What we want to do now is highlight the work that she was doing; she was very philanthropic when she was alive, she was very charitable, and we need to carry on her charity with this foundation. She created the foundation herself, so we’re just carrying on the work she was doing.

What is the one thing that people don’t know about her that you wish the whole world knew? 
The way she was with people. When Back to Black had just come out, we went for a stroll through London, and we popped into shops she frequented, where everyone knew her. But she too knew everything about these people, asking “How’s your mum? Your sister? Did she have the baby?” She was fully engaged with other people. There are a lot of young ladies in her position who wouldn’t be like that. That’s what I want people to understand and realize about her. She didn’t really get that she was a superstar, which was wonderful. She was a normal kid with an astronomical talent. 

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Jennifer Hudson Refers To Herself In The Third Person In ‘Lucky’ Interview

Some divas, you sort of expect them to refer to themselves in the third person, or even the royal "we." Celine Dion. Mariah Carey. Aretha Franklin. (Wait, do these women actually use the word "I"? BRB, fact-checking.) But what about American Idol winner Jennifer Hudson?

Nothing against Jennifer Hudson. It’s not her fault that her subplot in Sex & The City was terribly silly. Or that she’s more famous for being a Weight Watchers spokesperson than for winning an Oscar for Dreamgirls

But I did not expect to be reading the interview with J-Hud in January’s Lucky magazine and read this sentence:

When Jennifer has free time, I am shopping!

Come again? Did Jennifer just refer to Jennifer in the third person like Jennifer can get away with doing that? 

If Lindsay Lohan referred to herself in the third person, we would all assume that’s just because she is insane. But Jennifer Hudson seemed grounded for someone with such an amazing a rags-to-riches story. Maybe … not.

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Morning Links: Sinead O’Connor Ends Marriage, Justin Bieber Gives Friend a Mustang

● Just 18 days in, Sinead O’Connor has called off her marriage. The whole thing was "kyboshed" by her husband’s concerned family, she explains on her blog. Admitting also that "a bit of a wild ride i took us on looking for a bit of a smoke of weed for me wedding night as I don’t drink" couldn’t have helped the matter. [People]

● Justin Bieber got his childhood friend, Ryan Butler, a Mustang convertible for Christmas, which, well, as Butler tweeted, "#swag." [Huff Post]

● Martin, the Osbourne family’s 14-year-old chihuahua, passed away on Christmas day. "Devastated does not quite sum it up," Kelly tweeted. Ozzy, we imagine, might have been a little less sad to see one of the "terrorists" go. [TMZ]

● Word has it that Jennifer Hudson was offered the lead in Precious, but turned it down because she didn’t want to put back on all the weight she had worked so hard to lose. "As much as I was moved by this film, I wanted to try a role that had nothing whatsoever to do with my weight," she says. [THR]

● Be warned that the People magazine cover declaring Taylor Lautner is "Out & Proud," that’s currently making the internet rounds is fake, "absolutely fake," according to a People representative. [Gossip Cop]

● Hard-rocking Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Sickles gave Lana Del Rey’s "Video Games" a "very tonally pleasing, and not at all ironic or funny" spin and it’s, well, maybe you should decide for yourself. [P4K]

Here Are Your ‘VH1 Divas’: Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Florence and the Machine, and More

The lineup for VH1’s Divas was announced today. In addition to Clarkson, Blige, and Florence, Jessie J, Jennifer Hudson, and Jill Scott are also slated to perform at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom; the concert will air on VH1 on December 19.

In a press release, the cable network announced that the show will “celebrate soul” and pay tribute to the musical output of Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Philadelphia, and London.

VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul will bring together some of the best singers across the globe, men and women alike, to honor the soulful cities that inspired these divas and their art. The cities honored include: Chicago, Detroit, London, Memphis and Philadelphia. Accompanied by one of the most exciting groups of modern soul, The Roots, with ?uestlove as musical director, each diva will pay tribute through not only their own soul-inspired songs, but some of the greatest classics that have shaped a genre.

As in previous years, this edition of VH1 Divas will benefit VH1 Save The Music Foundation and its programs to restore music education in public schools. For more information, please visit

Morning Links: Unreleased Tupac Song Going For $1 Million, Lil Wayne’s PSA

● Someone has offered a cool $1,000,000 for the unreleased track playing in the background of Tupac’s sex tape. Bidding on the tape, meanwhile, has only hit $150,000. [TMZ] ● Roseanne Barr’s return to network television is nearer then ever, NBC having picked up her sitcom Downwardly Mobile. [THR] ● Michael Jackson’s kids showed up to Saturday’s tribute show to the late performer in MJ-inspired garb. Also of note from the night: Beyoncé performed “Wanna Be Where You Are”, and Jennifer Hudson failed to show up, citing “production problems.” [People]

● In a 30 minute “public service announcement,” Lil Wayne mourns Steve Jobs, talks about inspiring a gang of kids in New Orleans to skateboard, and calls himself the “Barack Obama of Buggatti.” Grab a chair, you’re going to want to hear this. [Complex] ● Hilary Duff looks a teeny tiny bit pregnant finally. [Daily Mail] ● Did Beyoncé steal the dance moves for her “Countdown” video? Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker says so, and that she didn’t even do it well. “Am I honored? Look, I’ve seen local school kids doing this. That’s a lot more beautiful,” she said of Beyoncé’s lift. [AceShowBiz]

Why Is Jennifer Hudson Portraying Winnie Mandela?

Maybe when I got up to visit the bathroom during Jennifer Hudson’s big Oscar-winning Dreamgirls diva moment, I missed some breakthrough. But seriously, giving her an Oscar for assaying a role that any soul singer signed on for the same role could’ve sleepwalked through was a bit premature, and could lead to complications like this — complications wherein Hudson gets roped into playing Nelson Mandela’s wife in Winnie, which begins filming May 2010. Is such a role too much too soon for the still-green thesp?

Perhaps there’s some golden unwritten rule that’s supposed to bar us from snubbing J.Huds. She’s a perfectly lovely celebrity (an anomaly, given the species!), a very talented vocalist, and is so marred by tragedy. But there’s still the fact that her filmic body of work doesn’t really put her ahead of more seasoned veterans who could be blindly trusted to handle the gravity of such a controversial and politically charged character. A little reason in this madness otherwise: Hudson will also be belting out the film’s theme tune.

Essentially, Winnie is the stuff that Oscar gold is made of. Hudson’s pulling double duty and another Oscar-friendly guy is directing the affair and it’s a “politically-charged biopic” — a subgenre that always makes voters swoon. But like all Oscar bait, it may end up no more memorable than Hudson’s last go-around on the big screen.

Michelle Obama Avoids Bolero-Gate

imageAndre Leon Talley will not be styling Michelle Obama! Non-existent crisis averted. Confused? Let me back up a few months to June, when Mrs. Obama made a trip to New York to attend several fundraisers. The New York Post reported that certain unnamed political advisors became nervous after one fundraiser hosted by Andre Leon Talley (Anna Wintour’s right hand man). These advisors worried that Talley would become a style Svengali to Michelle Obama and steer her towards unfortunate fashion choices, like the metallic bolero jacket he created for Jennifer Hudson at the Oscars. No less than Derek Blasberg recently caught up with Talley and got the real story: He hasn’t offered any advice to Obama about what to wear. “I think that Michelle Obama does not need advice,” intoned Talley.