Performance


Alicia Keys: “The access within us is unlimited”.

28 October 2021

Always stay true to yourself: almost no other musician embodies this value like Alicia Keys. And the 15-time Grammy Award winning artist is unfailingly honest about what a challenge that can sometimes be.

Performance


Alicia Keys: “The access within us is unlimited”.

28 October 2021

Always stay true to yourself: almost no other musician embodies this value like Alicia Keys. And the 15-time Grammy Award winning artist is unfailingly honest about what a challenge that can sometimes be.

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys was the guest editor-in-chief of She’s Mercedes. Image: Kennedi Carter.

Our most recent edition of She's Mercedes had a very special guest editor-in-chief: 15-time Grammy Award-winning artist and Mercedes-Benz global partner Alicia Keys. In this interview, the global superstar looks back on her great successes and toughest battles … and shares her dreams with us.

Mercedes-Benz: “Alicia, you are currently celebrating the anniversary of your award-winning debut album Songs in A Minor. What comes to mind when you think about yourself back then as a 20-year-old newcomer?”
Alicia Keys: “More than anything, how excited I was. When the album came out, I went out and bought 15 copies. It was a thrill. I went out onto the street, handed them out to strangers and asked: “Have you heard this? You’ll love it!” They didn’t even know who I was, just a crazy lady handing out tapes!”

MB: “This crazy girl on the street quickly rose to become the biggest thing on the American R&B scene. What did all that do to you?”
AK:
“I especially remember the battles I had to fight when people were trying to mould me into someone different than I was. That girl was very tough and strong-minded. She knew what she liked and what she didn’t. On the other hand, she was also vulnerable, insecure and inexperienced. But I felt really strong because I held on to myself, and that is probably the hardest thing to do in life.”

MB: “In your autobiography More Myself, you describe your mother as a role model in terms of courage…”
AK:
“She taught me not to be taken advantage of. You know that people will take from you as much as you let them take. Business people are always about marketing and sales. It takes away the soul. I learned that early, and it’s a big one.”

Alicia Keys on her piano
The film on Alicia Keys presented by Mercedes-Benz
Watch again

Mercedes-Benz presents: an Alicia Keys Documentary.

MB: “How do you keep your authenticity in the entertainment industry, where you are certainly not an outsider?”
AK:
“There is a tricky space between business and art. It’s a delicate, special thing. On the one hand, you are striving for creativity and truth, while on the other you have to figure out how to get people to actually buy into it. For me, it’s about building a true connection that people can believe in. Music in particular creates so many genuine opportunities for this.”

MB: “At the same time, you caution that the entertainment industry can be dangerous…”
AK: “It can be very shallow. That is dangerous because you can lose yourself if you are trying to keep up with the expectations of others. Especially when it comes to selling something – whether it’s a film, a song or a play. That is why I fought so hard to make sure that I really wasn’t changing myself.”

MB: “Because it feels good to say no?”
AK: “I could not live like that. I had to struggle through it, but now I feel solid just being myself. I had to learn how to do that first! I didn’t want to let people down or lose opportunities.”

Alicia Keys

“For me, it’s about building a true connection that people can believe in,” Alicia says. “Music in particular creates so many genuine opportunities for this. Image: Kennedi Carter.

MB: “In 2006, your day-to-day life had become overwhelming and you travelled to Egypt after the death of your beloved grandmother. You write that at first you didn’t dare to leave this ‘fairy tale’ that your career had become. What made you take time out?”
AK:
“You have to listen to your inner self. We are not conditioned this way. Children are taught: “Do this because I said so.” We grow up without knowing what our intuition is. It took me a long time to allow myself to take my inner voice seriously and to set boundaries and create space for myself. I can actually create my own schedule. For a long time, I did not know that I could do this. And it took me to the place where I realised that I would be hurting myself if I didn’t. I implemented those things, and it really has changed my life.”

MB: “You give young female artists much-needed support with your She Is The Music initiative, founded in 2019 to promote young female talent in the music industry. Why is it so important to you?”
AK:
“I love to be the big sister. Because I know how difficult it is when you can’t talk to anyone about your life in show business. It can be really hard finding your tribe – people who actually care about you. When you’re young and starting out, it can be so hard to protect yourself. This is especially true for women.”

MB: “From that point of view, you must be glad to be mother to two boys: Egypt, 10, and Genesis, 6?”
AK:
“I don’t know if it would have been easier to have had daughters. I think, though, that there is a reason why the woman who created Girl on Fire and Superwoman went on to have two sons – so that she can help them navigate how to become men and treat women with respect. I often think about that for my boys.”

MB: “As an entrepreneur, you’ve tried out new genres, like founding the Soulcare lifestyle and cosmetics brand in 2020…”
AK:
“I feel like I created a new way to connect with people! A beautiful conversation about how to take care of yourself without feeling guilty about it.”

MB: “And no doubt you’ve already got some new plans in the pipeline?”
AK:
“I’m more creative than I’ve ever been. My dreams and my ability to dream are only getting better. Society tries to make us think that you have a peak in your career, and there is a limit over you. I truly disagree with that! To this day I see mothers, daughters and grandmothers at the same show. It is amazing to me! I created what I wanted – no limits. The access within us is unlimited. I am really excited about all the things I am even yet to dream.”

By Christine Kruttschnitt