Alicia Keys is a 15-time Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and producer. Composing songs at the age of 12, and signing her first record deal at 15, her success story is inspirational.
Born in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of Manhattan in New York City, she is the only child of her mother Teresa, and one of three children of her father Craig. With her mother being of Italian descent, and her father an African American, Alicia always expressed how comfortable she is with her multiracial heritage, because she felt she was able to relate to different cultures, which I find highly relatable myself.
At an early age, like most of us, she went through some self-esteem issues, and most of her experiences prepared her for the parallels of the music industry, setting her up for all the opportunities that followed.
As early as six years old, Alicia discovered a passion for the piano and described how she loved the sound and feel of the instrument. She was drawn to playing composers such as Beethoven and Mozart; blue, dark and shadowy compositions. She wrote her first song aged 12 about her departed grandfather, taking inspiration from the film Philadelphia. From this experience, she could express how she was feeling through music.
I have always been a fan of music myself, and her connection to it resonates with me as I feel like music fuels the soul. I always feel a connection to it through experiences and significant times in life. Music is like a form of escapism, and through Alicia’s style of music I feel captivated and connected to the power that comes from it.
As a young teenager I would listen to Alicia’s first album ‘Songs in A minor’, captured by the soulful melodies of her piano playing, and pure elegance of her beautiful voice – sometimes imagining myself playing the piano and singing! She truly mesmerised me with her tone, lyrics and powerful stance.
On her music and playing the piano, Alicia said the following:
“Classical piano totally helped me to be a better songwriter and a better musician…I knew the fundamentals of music. And I understood how to put things together and pull it together and change it. The dedication that it took to study classical music is a big reason why I have anything in this life I think. It was a big influence on me. It opened a lot of doors because it separated me from the rest. And it did help me structure my songs.”
This resonated with me, because it allowed me to recognise the power of being unique and having the dedication to keep at a passion that you know you can succeed in. Alicia believed in herself, which is something we can all take note from. It’s important to believe in yourself in order to achieve your goals. Without self-belief, it’s hard to move forward.
As well a being a successful musician, and accomplished actress to add; she is a New York best-selling author, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. She has even been listed in Time magazine as one of their 100 most influential people.
In September 2014, Alicia lunched ‘We Are Here’ a movement that empowers the global community around a host of issues and initiatives to build a better world where people are heard, respected, equal and treated with dignity.
She is also the co-founder and ambassador of Keep A Child Alive, a non-profit organization that partners with organizations to combat the impact of HIV and AIDS on children and their families in Africa and India.
She is an activist of racism, taking part in a video in 2016 against systemic racism in the United States titled ’23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You’re Black In America’.
Most famously Alicia started a movement that would empower us all to embrace our natural beauty. The #nomakeup movement came in 2016 whilst she was shooting for her new album, where she opted for a no make up look after her photographer felt the need to capture her at her most raw – music and all. She said that she felt her most strongest, most empowered, most free and most beautiful. It was here she was inspired to go make-up free indefinitely, attending high-profile red-carpet events in her most true and authentic form.
“I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
As such a powerful woman, she is teaching us the importance of embracing our true selves. It’s a strong message, as we all feel conformed to looking a certain way. There is a huge amount of pressure on women to be perfect, when in reality this really isn’t the case. We should concentrate on doing and being the best, we can through what we believe is right, not what the media or society have us believe. We are all uniquely beautiful in our own way, internally and externally through being our true authentic selves.
In 2012 Alicia released her smash hit ‘Girl On Fire’, a powerful song which became an anthem for femininity. She described writing this as ‘divine’, and like she was listening to a far away voice, transcribing what it was telling her. This song massively empowered young girls and women, reminding us that we are the greatest.
Alicia’s sense of fashion has also had a huge impact in the styling world, with some bold and brass looks, as well as her famous cool black hats, turbans and her trademark cane rows. She is the definition of cool. I take inspiration from her more laid back style, her pushed back hair and fashionable head bands present her as down to earth and authentic – everything she protests for.
Alicia Keys has taught me so much about passion, determination and embracing who you are ever since she touched the music world with her soulful aura. I had just become a teenager, only just starting to navigate a life where I would start to embrace my true self as this years past. She is a credit to the industry, and as a hard-working dedicated mother and wife also, she is the epitome of a success story through her vision. She reminds us everyday through her work that we as women, deserve to have a voice and deserve to achieve the best. As I sit her and listen to her song ‘Superwoman’, I’m reminded that no matter what we are going through, we are all, Superwomen.
“Cause I am superwoman,
yes I am (yes she is)
Still when I’m a mess,
Still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
Oh yes, I’m a Superwoman”
(Alicia Keys, Superwoman)