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'Can you give me a beehive?' The touching story behind Amy Winehouse’s signature hairstyle

 (Getty Images for NARAS)
(Getty Images for NARAS)

I met Amy Winehouse on her first ever shoot, before the debut album, Frank. She was only 17. We were around Portobello Market with the photographer Phil Knott, and she was wearing trilbies and flared trousers and scarves around her hair. Amy was just this feisty, gorgeous, young voluptuous woman and I was like: ‘Wow, check her out.’

At the end of the day, we went back to Phil's studio. We were chatting in the dressing room, and she goes ‘Oi, Trace — can you give me a beehive?’ I said ‘oh my god, sit down’, backcombed her hair into this beehive and tied a little scarf that she had around it. She loved her scarves when she was a teenager and was really into that cool, beatnik thing. I remember looking at Amy thinking: ‘This is her.’

We ran upstairs and I said: ‘Hey Phil, will you take a photograph of Amy — look at her!’ He took one polaroid and gave it to me, then we finished off and went on with our normal lives.

Amy Winehouse's first beehive: polaroid taken by Phil Knott on Winehouse's first shoot with Tracey Cahoon in 2000 (Tracey Cahoon — not for reproduction)
Amy Winehouse's first beehive: polaroid taken by Phil Knott on Winehouse's first shoot with Tracey Cahoon in 2000 (Tracey Cahoon — not for reproduction)

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. Apparently he loved her.

Tracey Cahoon sits with Amy Winehouse at the 46664 Concert: In Celebration Of Nelson Mandela's Life at Hyde Park, 2008 (Tracey Cahoon — not for reproduction)
Tracey Cahoon sits with Amy Winehouse at the 46664 Concert: In Celebration Of Nelson Mandela's Life at Hyde Park, 2008 (Tracey Cahoon — not for reproduction)

The first beehive was her own 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 actually 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 actually 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.

Amy Winehouse performs at Glastonbury 2008: Cahoon recalls putting cocktail umbrellas in her beehive (Getty Images)
Amy Winehouse performs at Glastonbury 2008: Cahoon recalls putting cocktail umbrellas in her beehive (Getty Images)

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 find it really hard. It’s heartbreaking that she’s not around. In my mind, she’s faked her death and is living in the Caribbean somewhere.

As told to Joe Bromley. Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good music video beehive hairpiece sold at auction on Friday, 10 November 2023 for £18,750, propstoreauction.com