AMY WINEHOUSE WAS MY VULNERABILITY ROLE MODEL

I looked up to Amy in ways I shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

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Amy Winehouse said, “I wouldn’t write anything unless it was directly personal to me just cause I wouldn’t be able to tell the story right.”

I still remember when one of my high school boyfriends broke things off with me. I think I was in grade 11. I spent all weekend watching her concert DVD and watching the 30-minute doc they made about recording Back to Black with Mark Ronson. She talked about falling in love with Blake and admitted to fucking it all up. She talked about lies and things being less than ideal by her own doing. It made me feel less alone every time I was in pain or did something stupid while drunk. It wasn’t the first or last weekend I shut myself in my house and did nothing but listen to her voice and words.

She was my role model. I looked up to her in ways I probably shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

To say I was a fan would be an understatement. I think I wanted to be her.

I owned Back to Black on vinyl and I never even had a record player. I watched every interview she had ever done well before she died about a million times each. I owned the only concert DVD she ever released. I bought a black Adidas sweater because I saw her wearing the same sweater in an interview (this was before athleisure came back in fashion). I read her biography a dozen times.

I can point to pieces of my past and personality and see her reflected right back at me.

The way I’ve ALWAYS done my eyeliner since the moment I started wearing makeup.

The way I say “yeah.”

The way I love playing pool like she did (I’m half decent actually).

The way I dealt with breakups with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The cheeky way of talking.

The way I can’t help but be inappropriate sometimes.

The way I love jazz.

The way I used to dress (till I stopped wearing push up bras).

The way I never brushed my hair and wore it big. I still don’t brush it if I’m being totally honest.

The way I talked about myself.

The way I wished my eyes were just a little darker so they’d match perfectly.

The way I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The brutal blunt honesty in my writing.

She taught me authenticity because it just oozed out of her. Despite being someone who acted like she didn’t think very highly of herself, she couldn’t help but be anyone but herself. Before I ever opened a Brené Brown book, I listened to her music and learned what vulnerability looked like. I saw her using art to tell the stories of her life and make peace with them in her own way.

She’s also goddam ruthless, which you’ll know if you watch enough of her interviews.

Even then, there was something about what she created and how she embraced her messy, aggressive nature. She was never quoted saying anything good about herself, but she was always honest even when it maybe made other people uncomfortable.

She just…wasn’t guarded. You can tell she literally didn’t know how to be. If you watch any interview with her you can see her emotions all over her face, in her expression and through her eye contact and body language. If she didn’t want to be there you could tell. If she was upset you could tell. If she didn’t like the questions she was being asked you could tell.

There were a total lack of walls, which you could argue hurt her in some ways, but made her utterly unforgettable in others.

She’s a beautiful singer and songwriter, yes. She was volatile, yes. But what she really taught me was about putting it all out there. Ugly stuff and all. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a great role model for kindness or dealing with your problems and pain the healthy way, but that’s ok. Nobody is perfect, and she never tried to pretend she was.

I remember where I was when I found out she died. I was sitting in class and my friend texted me and asked me if I had heard. I didn’t think it was true. I had been following her in the news because I had heard she was going to put out a new album soon. When I saw my friend later that day and she confirmed it I started crying right then and there. I don’t even think I could fully appreciate the impact she had on my life until I became an adult.

I grew up believing struggle was part of being a creative. Believing alcohol was part of being a strong saucy woman. Believing being raw, direct, uncensored and borderline offensive or difficult was charming. Believing relationships had to be difficult, rocky and messy. Believing destroying your own life was part of living your life.

Then she died. Way too young. And I realized then, and even more now, that she taught me so many amazing things, but also so many destructive things. You never get the sense that she’s overly happy about being famous.

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Amy Winehouse at the Union Chapel in London, UK. November 24, 2006 📸 Photo by: Jill Furmanovsky __ Photographer Jill Furmanovsky recalls, — "I took live photos of Amy Winehouse for MOJO Magazine at Union Chapel in 2006. She seemed particularly happy that night and made references to a loved one (Blake) who was in the audience. I asked Amy if she cared if I took a quick picture. The road crew was loading and a cold wind blew through the open stage door Amy did not care, she forced herself to stand against the wall in the hallway, raising her head to catch the light while the autumn leaves blow." — Jill __ #AmyWinehouse #AmyNeverDies #JillFurmanovsky #Uk #RockPhotography #RockArchive #UnionChapel #2006 #Photo #BlackAndWhite #Amy #Icon #Legenday #AmyWinehouseNeverDies

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Like I’ve said before, when you don’t like yourself very much it’s easy to spot in others. I could never shake the feeling that she was incredibly insecure, despite being so bright and amazing. I used to read it as being humble, but I don’t believe that’s what it was. I believe it was self-loathing.

She may have had a shaky personal life, but you could always tell writing and performing was the one thing she truly loved. We all need a thing, but sometimes it’s not enough.

It’s not a coincidence that I believe the most powerful, deep, soul touching writing comes from a very personal place. Just like the way she felt about music. She didn’t give a shit about being famous, or being well-liked, she just wanted to tell her stories and make her vision come to life.

You can judge her. You can pity her. You can love her the way I do. You can listen to her music. And you can learn from her. But truthfully, the world will never forget her and her music because she’s unforgettable.

She made me feel seen. She made me feel less alone. She made art and music that made me realize that you can put your everything out there, but you have to be strong enough to handle the criticism that goes with it. Resilient enough to handle the hatred for being different. Love yourself enough to know that you have to live with your fear and love it to death instead of trying to silence it because that’s courage.

I related to her. Her aura. Her dark nature. Her sadness. Her regret. Her flirty self-concious energy. Her way of brightening up other people’s lives but seemingly not being able to turn the light on for herself because she couldn’t locate it.

The way she so obviously went against the grain, almost sometimes seemingly just to piss people off but really because pain speaks volumes. She’s why I feel compelled to write about my own fuckups. But there’s one thing I really think she missed in some of her art, which was the gratitude and light parts of life. I would have loved to hear more from her about the good. That’s one thing we didn’t have in common, but I do believe if she had stuck around a little longer she would have found a way eventually to make art that didn’t come from a place of low self-worth.

She wasn’t the hero I was ever supposed to have, but we can’t help who we fall in love with. Being proud that her art and life (from afar) was part of my journey, and writing about that journey, is something that only Amy could have taught me how to do.

Please do me a favour today, and everyday, and remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate and sometimes there are factors in people’s lives that add kerosene to the fire. Not everyone has the tools and what it takes to extinguish that flame.

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HOW I LEARNED TO FIGHT FOR MYSELF

What made me put on the gloves and get in the ring.

For the majority of my life, I was misguided. I have no illusions about this. 

I went through some heavy stuff when I was younger (that I don’t feel comfortable disclosing), and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me and the relationships with the people around me.

I don’t need to tell you too much to paint the picture. I’ve thrown up in someone’s parents’ flower bed, yelled at my parents while drunk, fooled around on a soccer field and been taken home in a cop car. I was never one for drugs, which to this day — I’m still very scared of.

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I think I’m 16 or 17 years old here? Honestly I couldn’t tell you.

If you know me now, some of this might come as a bit of a surprise to you. I do talk like a trucker most of the time, which is one of my old habits that hasn’t quite bit the dust yet.


A guy I dated when I was 22 called me something along the lines of “a drunk whore,” (that’s G rated for you) and that was the first time my inner fighter lifted her head, provoked.

I had taken those hits before from people before many times. Metaphorically, my ribs were bruised, lips fat. I was sitting in the corner defeated for most of my late teens and early 20s. But this time was different.

Why? Because prior to that moment, I would’ve said “you’re right.” I’ve written about this before: I hated myself, and I wore the insults people flung like a fitted leather glove.

But I had begun rallying and building up strength in the corner, and I was determined. This was the period in my life when I first discovered self-help books and realized I wasn’t alone in my struggles and flaws.

Everyday it felt like it took all my mental capacity and emotional energy to try to change my thoughts about myself. For those who have never tried to change destructive thought patterns/loops: it’s the mental equivalent of continually practicing a jab-cross-hook-uppercut on a punching bag all day every day. For years.

I worked so hard to make the small amount of progress I had made, I wasn’t about to let someone-that-I-will-not-name come and knock me out cold.

I don’t know how to describe it, but it was in that shitty moment that my months of repeating affirmations changed into an actual belief. Before I would say to myself “you are worthy of respect,” but didn’t believe it in my gut.

But it dawned on me that’s not who I was. I didn’t deserve that title. So put my boxing gloves on and got in the fucking ring. And I’ve been fighting for myself ever since.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. 

I’ll admit to my flaws and the harm that I’ve caused.

Not all of my choices have been smart. 

Not all of my words have been kind.

I’ve struggled with alcohol use.

I’ve done uncharacteristic things out of shame.

I’ve been deaf and blind to my own emotions.

My words and actions have come from a place of insecurity.

I’ve been self conscious and acted accordingly.

I am sorry for my mistakes.

I do not come from a self-righteous place where I’m claiming that I have figured it all out. I do not come from a place where I’m standing before you saying I’ve always known better. I’m still learning in every way.

I didn’t always understand what it means to be body positive.

I didn’t reflect on my internalized misogyny. 

I didn’t always know about intersectional feminism.

I wasn’t always capable of admitting to my faults. And I don’t deserve a medal now for doing so.

I absolutely haven’t always been the person I am now. Everyday I’m fortunate to wake up and try to live out my values better than I did the day before. I am ready to be wrong and call myself out when I slip up.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the reason I am the way I am now is because of what I’ve been through. I have so much empathy for people who are in the middle of that struggle where they want to fight for themselves, but aren’t ready.

With all of that being said, I’ve come to a place in my life where I know I’m flawed — but I’m learning, growing and still deserving of happiness.

I deserve to love and care for myself. 

I am worthy.

I am enough.

And that is the biggest and bravest statement I can make out loud. That I love myself, not despite my flaws and experiences, but because of the person they’ve made me into.

There are people who have tried to put me in my place again since that moment, but I’m still ready to fight for myself. Elbows are down, gloves ready at my chin, ribs are protected. I’m not trying to throw punches, but I am ready to protect myself when necessary.

All we can do is the best we can in the moment, with the knowledge we have at our disposal. I believe that applies, always. We can have the “wrong knowledge” and still believe we are doing what’s right.

I know now he called me a whore from a place of pain, and I don’t hold it against him. We all do shitty things when we are in pain because we’d do anything to make it go away. I know this firsthand.

Admitting your flaws is cool, but you wanna know WHAT’S EVEN COOLER??!?? ADDRESSING THEM! WORKING ACTIVELY TO UNLEARN HARMFUL THINGS YOU TOOK IN GROWING UP! That’s the growth bit. But it starts with stepping up and being able to admit your wrongs or harm, say you’re sorry (when relevant), speak your truth(s) and move forward (ideally with self-compassion, because that tends to make things easier).

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In my personal guidelines of engagement under ‘Read First’ in my highlights, I’ve included this super helpful graphic by my sis @killing.georgina. The reason I’ve included it is because, as stated in today’s posts – most people with white privilege don’t know how to make a sincere apology when they’ve caused harm to BIPOC. This simple but powerful graphic teaches you how to make a sincere apology that doesn’t include ‘buts’, explanations of intent, fragility, defensiveness, further harm, passive aggression or falling apart. Ria also wrote a post about it on Medium in an article called “Oww, Ouch: How to Apologize”. If you find this graphic useful, I highly recommend supporting Ria and her writings on her Patreon at Patreon.com/killinggeorgina.

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Nobody wants to come out, be vulnerable and say they haven’t been perfect. It’s scary and it gives people a chance to hook you in the ribs; but showing up in that way and exposing yourself (in a positive way) puts you on a path to living your full potential. We’re all human. We’re all flawed. We still deserve to shine and love ourselves.

We don’t need to fight each other, but we do need to fight for ourselves. That’s why my  affirmation is “fight for yourself.”

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