Alicia Keys: ”ACCEPT YOURSELF AS YOU ARE”The soul star may be at the top of her game, but she doesn’t play by the rules. Should you strive for perfection? She thinks that’s absurd
Alicia Keys is one of the most successful pop stars of our times, having sold an estimated 75 million records to date and won 15 Grammy Awards. But what makes this US artist different from many of her contemporaries is the fact that right from the release of her debut album, Songs In A Minor, in 2001, she has penned her own songs.
Keys has written her own career rule book, too:
“I’m not interested in show-business conventions,” she asserts.
The 35-year-old recently declared that she never wants to wear make-up again – a clear statement in favour of natural beauty. Only when you love yourself can you achieve success, she explains.
THE RED BULLETIN: Your most recent single, In Common, was a celebration of people’s individuality and imperfections. What is it about the concept of perfection that annoys you?
ALICIA KEYS: Let me answer your question with a question: how do you define perfection?
That gets us closer to the core of the problem. Isn’t it absurd for a human, with all our foibles, to strive for perfection? Take that route and you’re only heading for failure and frustration.
But there’s nothing wrong with setting yourself higher goals, is there?
You have to ask yourself who is setting these goals. Is it really you? Or has someone else forced them on you? Take a look around you. Society tells us how we should look, what we should eat. The industry forces us to live up to some ideal, just because it wants to sell a product.
But surely your branch of the industry is just as guilty of promoting this image of perfection?
You’re absolutely right. That’s why I’m laying down a marker against it. I don’t wear make-up anymore. I don’t wear it in my private life or on stage, because I realised that my whole life I’d been using make-up as a shield to hide my true self, thinking it would make me glamorous. I thought I had to be made-up to be successful in show business, but that’s complete nonsense.
Many managers in the entertainment world might disagree…
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against women wearing make-up – it’s a personal decision. But I feel more comfortable without make-up. And I’m happy to say I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from young women for making my decision. I believe that you have to feel good about yourself if you want to be successful in life.
What could men learn from your attitude?
That’s easy: accept yourself the way you are. And don’t let anyone talk you into hiding your true self. Don’t hide your face behind a wall of make-up, and don’t hide your views against prevailing attitudes.
Which means what, specifically?
It’s often easier and safer in life to just keep your opinions to yourself, so that you avoid confrontation. But I strongly believe that we can only improve the world if we discuss difficult questions openly and honestly. I try to get the discussion going with my songs.
Like in your new song, Holy War, where you sing, “War is holy, sex is obscene. Aren’t we getting something very wrong?”
Exactly. It’s so absurd. We think that war is a legitimate means of pushing our interests, while at the same time, we make a taboo of something as natural as living out our sexuality.
Not everyone has the same megaphone that you have. How can we get a discussion going ourselves?
You must start with yourself. Open your eyes.
Try to see things from another perspective. Break out of your current thinking patterns. Get informed. You’ll soon see that you’ve become more self-confident in the way you think, and that it’s easier to express your own opinion with greater conviction.