#WCIW: Alicia Keys
Soulful Songstress. Passionate Humanitarian. Fearlessly-Fresh-Faced.
Fifteen-time Grammy Award Winner Alicia Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook on January 25, 1981 in New York City. Interested in music from a young age, Alicia began piano lessons at age seven. Her mother insisted that she stick with the lessons--even when practicing wasn’t the top thing on Alicia’s mind. Her commitment paid off, however, and she was accepted at the Professional Performance Arts School in Manhattan where she graduated when she was only 16. A bidding war ensued after her graduation between music executives who wanted to sign her. Arista Records won out and she signed with their label in 1998. When Clive Davis left Arista in 1999, Alicia followed him to his new label, J Records. This turned out to be a great career move for the up-and-coming Keys. Davis gave her the freedom to write and produce her own music and her debut album, Songs in A Minor, went platinum five times over when it was released in 2001.
Keys was an instant hit. Songs in A Minor was adored by critics and Alicia took home Grammys that year for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist. Keys has since released four more albums which have all been well-received by critics and listeners alike. She has also ventured into acting and has appeared in shows like Charmed, American Dreams, and The Backyardigans and films such as The Nanny Diaries and The Secret Life of Bees. She is also currently a judge on The Voice.
Alicia Keys is not just a talented singer, actor, and pianist... she’s also a very vocal feminist, philanthropist, and activist. One of her most instantly recognizable movements has been her vow to go makeup free. Alicia decided to go fresh-faced after a photoshoot with photographer Paola Kudacki. Keys arrived to the shoot after a workout in a tracksuit wearing no makeup. While the plan had been to do hair and makeup before the shoot, Kudacki began to snap away. The results were breathtaking. “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt,” she said of the experience. After, Keys began to appear at performances, photoshoots, and The Voice tapings sans makeup. The decision sparked a #NoMakeup movement on Instagram and has empowered many women and girls to embrace their natural beauty.
Keys is also a political activist. She participated in the Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s inauguration and has been extremely vocal about the fight for women’s equality and reproductive rights and healthcare. In 2014 she launched We Are Here, whose mission statement reads: WE ARE HERE is a coalition of organizations joined together to give Millennials an exciting way to change the world. We will breakthrough today’s ADD environment with campaigns that are always current, positive, conscious, and ready to inspire. Equality and Racial Justice, Women and Children, Climate and Consciousness are our major focus areas. We Are Here for a better future.
Keys has also participated in numerous charity events for organizations like Keep a Child Alive (of which she is a co-founder), Frum Tha Ground Up, Live 8, and Greater than AIDS: Empowered, and received a humanitarian award from BET in 2009. Most recently, Keys has partnered with designer Stella McCartney to bring awareness and funding to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Breast Examination Center of Harlem, which offers breast cancer screenings to women who would otherwise go without them. Keys was photographed wearing McCartney’s Ophelia Whistling bralette that she is donating partial proceeds from to Memorial Sloan Kettering. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor who was born and raised in Harlem, the cause is very personal to Keys.
For her fearless, fresh-faced approach to beauty, her soulful songs, and her passionate commitment to her causes, Alicia Keys is this week’s #WCIW.