By Jenna Kelley
“Failure isn’t an option. I’ve erased the word ‘fear’ from my vocabulary, and I think when you erase fear, you can’t fail.”
Making positive changes all over the world, the “Girl on Fire,” Alicia Keys, has been leading a successful R&B music career as she dips her toes into other projects, such as television shows and various social movements.
At age four, a young New Yorker, Alicia Augello Cook discovered her interests in the entertainment industry as she appeared as one of Rudy Huxtable’s friends on the hit television show The Cosby Show (1985). A few years later, she explored a new route of entertainment and delved into studying music. At age seven, she began dancing her fingers across the keys of a piano. “When I first fell in love with the piano,” says Alicia, “I knew it was me. I was dying to play.” She attended a performing arts school in the City, where she began to write her own songs. This studious choir major advanced her studies and was able to graduate at the youthful age of sixteen, as valedictorian of her class.
Alicia went through a huge transitional period after her graduation when she met her long-term manager, Jeff Robinson, who later connected her to Peter Edge of Arista Records. Peter helped Alicia with her demo tracks, which soon led her to signing with Columbia records. As an intelligent young woman, she also was accepted to Columbia University. However, after a month of trying to balance music and academics, she dropped out of Columbia University and dedicated her focus to Columbia Records. At this time she dove in to pursue her career as a musician on a full time basis. After co-writing and recording a song for the film, Men in Black, in 1997, Keys left the label and teamed up with the illustrious Clive Davis, and her career began to skyrocket. She followed Clive from Arista Records to J Records. Alicia even found her new identity as a superstar and stage performer, Alicia Keys. “I always want to stay focused on who I am, even as I’m discovering who I am,” she said.
Everybody was Fallin’ in love with Alicia Keys when she debuted her very first album, Songs in A Minor, which reached number one in the first week, became a Platinum album, and won five Grammy awards. After winning awards, such as BET Award Best New Artist and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist, Keys released her sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003). She became a voice for women with her hit single, “A Women’s Worth,” and she collaborated with ‘A’-list artists, such as Usher and Christina Aguilera. She taped an MTV Unplugged series two years later, which was the first to reach a chart-topping number one since Nirvana’s in 1994.
Trailblazing the Billboard charts, Alicia not only was writing, recording, and producing music, but also she partnered up with another songwriter, Kerry “Krucial” Brothers, in order to create KrucialKeys Enterprises. They opened up The Oven Studios in Long Island so that she and other artists can record and create their own albums.
After a few cameos in films, she was a voice-over in The Backyardigans, taking on the role of Mommy Martian, and she even recorded an original song for the movie; although, not everything was peachy for this superstar during this time. Around the success of this animated movie, her grandmother had passed away, and Alicia suffered from a near- breakdown. She felt then need to get as far away as possible and take a break from her career and traveled to Egypt. “I was tired and had overworked myself and burnt myself out,” she said. “So I went to Egypt by myself. When I saw what was built there, it made me understand how powerful we are, that we can create anything. And I felt like I needed to create things that were timeless too.” In fact, she loved Egypt so much, that years after she ended up naming her first-born Egypt.
Bouncing back in 2006 with her third album, As I Am, which included her hit single, “No One,” maintained number one on the Billboard 200 list for five weeks. Talk about timeless… Alicia started to use her limelight to speak out against social injustices and advocate for social movements.
In 2009, Alicia met and started to work closely with a record producer and her soon-to-be husband, Swizz Beatz. During this time, she collaborated with hit artist Jay-Z for “Empire State of Mind,” and she released her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom, which featured Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé.
After the success of her fourth album, Alicia and Swizz announced their engagement and expectancy of their first child, Egypt (2010). Four years later, still happy as ever, their second child, Genesis was born. “I’ve stepped more into my womanhood, I’m a mother now, I’m having a beautiful relationship as a wife and as a friend.” Swizz stands by her side as a voice for social platforms and the greater good of humanity. She was judged for choosing to not wear make up to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2016 and Swizz immediately defended his wife’s honor. “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt,” says Alicia. The couple even became huge advocates for AIDS/HIV, and they adopted an African village together, in order to support the eradication of these diseases. She also participates in the “We Are Here” Movement, a coalition of organizations joined together to motivate “equality and racial justice, women and children, climate and consciousness” for millennials. (http://weareheremovement.com)
A year after she married Swizz, the record label she had been signed to for over a decade, J Records, shutdown. However, when one door closes another door opens, and Alicia skipped through the threshold of RCA Records. She released her fifth album, Girl on Fire, which not only gained her great success, but also became a platform for her actions on women empowerment (2012).
Aside from her music career, Alicia embarked on an entirely new technological project. She worked with Bento Box Entertainment in order to create an educational mobile app for kids called “The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee.” She later met the CEO of Blackberry, Thorsten Heins, and became the company’s Global Creative Director (2013). Connecting her educational technological products to printable texts, she released a series of children’s books. The first book is titled Blue Moon: From the Journals of MaMa Mae and LeeLee. She even took her talents back behind the camera and starred as Skye Summers in season 2 of the scripted series, Empire (2015). After Empire, she was announced to be the new coach of the unscripted reality show, The Voice, for season 11 in 2016.
As a humanitarian, activist, and woman, who exude beauty and respect, she participated in the Women’s March in Washington in January 2017. She gave a speech to the crowd and even sang one of her most famous songs, “Girl on Fire.” She changed the lyrics to an all inclusive “these girls are on fire.” Currently, Alicia has released her sixth studio album, Here. As she gets ready to go on tour, she is currently starring, again, as a coach on season 12 of The Voice. With all of her talent and current tour dates in line, the upcoming singers must be excited to learn from this seasoned superstar. Alicia Keys is truly an inspiring mother, artist, and benevolent human being.