“They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said no, no, no,” Amy Winehouse croons on her chart-topping single, “Rehab.” “[Her] rebellious abuse of alcohol and drugs has caused her to overdose and threaten her stardom and her life,” Dr. Carole Lieberman notes in her best-selling book, Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets.
Carole Lieberman, M.D., an Emmy award-winning psychiatrist, also authored Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live With Them. and When to Leave Them. Both titles explore relationships, heartbreak, and the keys to leading healthier lifestyles. In addition to her Emmy wins, Lieberman has also received awards from the Writers Guild of America, the City of Los Angeles, and the Film Advisory Board. Perhaps she is best known for her appearances on FOX News, CNN, BBC, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Court TV, and Entertainment Tonight, just to name a few.
In the interview set out below, Lieberman discusses the troubled background of the “Back to Black” singer, Amy Winehouse, and what caused Winehouse’s life to spiral out of control. Any references made are taken from her book, Bad Girls.
Most tragedies, such as that of Amy Winehouse, stem from something much deeper. What deep-rooted factors in her parental relationships led to her death?
Well, first of all, you need to understand the phrase “bad girl,” which is a woman who has had some sort of dysfunctional relationship with her father. This can be a sexually or verbally abusive relationship or even a father who is a workaholic. Essentially, it comes down to feelings of being unlovable. What then happens is a cycle. She (Amy) feels drawn to bad boys, such as her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, who, in turn, break her heart. Her feeling unloved is only exacerbated until she hardens her heart to ever feeling like she could be loved.
Tragically, what happens next is that she (or any woman in a similar situation) begins to use a man for something else, like sex, or money, or any number of things. She becomes a damsel in distress looking for an enabler, which is someone who supplies the addict (or other troubled individual) with the source of their pain (or resource). Her parents were her first enablers, specifically her father.
Basically, an enabler is someone who feels inadequate, so they latch on to something that makes them feel good about themselves and in control, as her husband Blake or even boyfriend, Reg Traviss did. There is a certain level of feeling safe for these enablers. If Amy would have gotten clean, she might have seen that the relationships were no good and would most likely have left them.
With that said, her relationship with her father is one of extreme exploitation. It is a known fact that he was a taxi driver who turned lounge singer only after Amy’s huge worldwide success. In fact, at the time of her death, he was in New York preparing for a gig and upon traveling back to London, he handed out items of her clothing to her fans. How sick is that?
Her father has also made comments in interviews saying that Amy died due to her detoxing from her addiction. He is simply spinning the story to make himself look better and to shift the blame away from himself. Also, there is a component of wanting to keep the media attention on the family. The more attention there is, the more recognition, more interviews, and possibly more money they make on this tragedy.
On the maternal side, her mother is an interesting character. I would like to begin by stressing that her true colors have come out since Amy’s death. In recent interviews, Amy’s mother talks about the last words Amy spoke to her: I love you, Mum. The intriguing thing is that she mentioned that Amy looked completely out of it. Hmm. You’d think she would have done something, but instead she just let her daughter go. As her daughter shifted from a nobody to a superstar, it was and is obvious that her parents cared more about her fame and fortune than for her well-being. They stopped being parents to her and became dependents; they loved her for what she brought (the money) and not for herself.
There have been numerous artists and singers who have gone way before their time, such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix, all at age 27. What is the significance of “The 27 Club,” and what is the appeal?
It’s as if it is a self-fullfilling prophesy, and there is an air of drama to it that makes it cool. It sends a message that if I go out that way, then I become legendary and go down in history. More importantly, there is the idea that turning 30 you have to be responsible and you can no longer party or be reckless. These individuals wanted to live in the moment before they had to grow up.
This segues into the idea of the bad girl/bad boy image. What exactly does this mean?
Well, it glamorizes the lifestyle. It makes using and abusing substances the life to live. It even makes the death glorious. You’d think that a tragedy like this would create a sense of avoidance among her fans and the general public, but that is simply not true. It creates a different impact. People, then, want to be like her and go out “gloriously” like she did.
The media is often just as guilty in situations like this. There is a tendency to find it less interesting if an artist is sober. What harmful effects can this have on someone?
There becomes an endless need for attention. It is a cycle. Celebrities learn that to get mass media attention, they must discover more outrageous behavior to increase their visibility. It is a vicious cycle. The lack of love she felt growing up fueled her desire to fill her life with reckless behavior just to stay in the limelight, at whatever cost. That void she felt made her vulnerable to anything that would supply her with that love she longed for. It’s an excuse to use. She was simply killing herself.
[Dr. Lieberman, later on in the interview, cites a more recent example of a bad girl with Crystal Harris, a playmate, and Hugh Hefner.]
Crystal Harris, obviously, fits the gold-digger category, but there was also a sense of her needing to jumpstart her career. She felt that in order to get what she wanted, she needed to be with him. Hugh Hefner, surprisingly enough, became what I call a “sitting duck” and vulnerable to bad girls. He has all the riches in the world, but even he became a victim of being used. In interviews, Harris talks about sex with Hefner as lasting only a few minutes. It’s clear that her motives and drive were for something else. She felt that once she got what she needed, she could leave him without any consequences.
In Lieberman’s book, “Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets,” she also analyzes several other Bad Girl archetypes, such as The Gold-Digger (Anna Nicole-Smith), The Sexual Withholder (Nicole Kidman), and The Husband Hunter and Trapper (Jessica Simpson), among others.