Winehouse gives instant fame to god-daughter, 12

Kevin O'Sullivan
Saturday 24 May 2008 00:00
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When you are 12 years old and your godmother asks you to take part in a sing-a-long session at a friend's house, you might be forgiven for not seeing it as a passport to instant stardom and a transatlantic musical career.

Until recently, Dionne Bromfield was just another shy schoolgirl from Kent, whose only claim to fame was that she occasionally had to battle through the paparazzi when the Ivor Novello award-winning star came to pick her up at the school gates.

But after a brief recording of her singing with Winehouse accompanying on guitar was viewed by an army of adoring fans, Dionne has become an overnight hit – and the Back to Black star believes she could be the next big thing to hit the British music scene.

"Dionne is the one – I love her to bits," said Winehouse, who is personally sponsoring her god-daughter on a 10-day intensive singing programme in Los Angeles this summer. "Dionne really is special, she's better than I was at her age," she added.

Taking a break from her hectic recording schedule, the singer admitted it was a risk putting the schoolgirl in the spotlight at such an early age, but denied she was being unfair to other young hopefuls.

"Dionne is young but she has more potential than any girl I've ever seen," she said. "I know she's got an advantage by knowing me but I'd put her in a room against anyone and she'd do the business."

As of yesterday more than 80,000 people had clicked on to watch Dionne's performance of Alicia Keyes's If I Ain't Got You. The footage from Doherty's home, which shows an attentive Winehouse, 24, in her trademark beehive strumming away as her protégé sings powerfully into a microphone, was described as "mesmerising" by some fans. "Wow, that's lovely. I like it better than the original!" said one, while another remarked: "Talent! Amy is a great mentor!"

Dionne is grateful to Winehouse for giving her the chance to make her voice heard in the music industry. "She's really good – she just wants me to do as well as I can," she said. "She's really supportive and thinks I've got a great voice. She's helping me to go to America in the summer – so I can learn more about singing. I'm really excited about it, and a bit nervous."

Asked how she feels when her mentor is featured in the press for her drug problems and tumultuous love life, she said: "It's not very nice. We do nice things together, though. She does my hair. She likes straightening it."

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Dionne, who attends the prestigious Voxbox singing school in Camden, north London, will fly to the US in July where she will come under the strict tutelage of Seth Riggs, whose alumni include the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

Lucy Phillips, Dionne's music teacher, said her pupil's age was no barrier to future success. "Dionne is talented enough to have a very long career. Of course I am concerned that she is so young, but she has a great support network around her and, despite what people think of Amy, she is absolutely great with children."

Winehouse has had a very positive effect on Dionne's career, she added. "She even bought her a guitar and is teaching her the chords. Amy is Dionne's biggest fan. I think that is why she was willing to take the risk of putting her out there. She knows what talent she has."

Dionne, who cannot sing this week because of a throat infection, is circumspect about the fanfare around her online exposure. She knows she must concentrate on her education at Beaverwood School in Chislehurst.

"I know I've got to take things slowly," she said, adding: "Not many of my friends at school have seen the video. One of them saw it and said it was good."

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