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Alicia Keys: ‘My humility was sometimes a mask for self-worth issues’

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Alicia Keys: ‘My humility was sometimes a mask for self-worth issues’

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On the Gossip with Celebitchy podcasts, CB and I have been talking about how I’ll often get a bad feeling about a celebrity, and then months or years later, I’ll be proven right. This is not the case with Alicia Keys – back in the day, I used to like her a lot. Then all of the Swizz Beatz-homewrecker stuff happened, and I watched as Alicia used her power and influence to whitewash the relationship, shut down the rumors of Swizz’s side chicks, and carefully construct an image of herself as some kind of peaceful earth mother. After that, I’ve just found her phoney as hell, but I realize that I’m in a tiny minority there. Anyway, I was thinking about all of that as I read through Alicia’s InStyle cover story. The editorial was photographed by Swizz and their kids, and Alicia (of course) leaned heavily into the earth mother routine. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

She hated her early 20s. “I swear, I wouldn’t go back to being 20 if somebody paid me — it was literally the worst time ever. I wanted to fit in so desperately. I was so blind, so dependent on everybody else’s opinions, so uncomfortable, so unclear.”

What she’s promoting: Keys’s latest album, ALICIA, and its tour have been postponed because of COVID-19, but she’s focusing on the potential upsides of the crisis. Eventually, she thinks slash hopes, we’ll see the value of “stripping away all the unnecessary things and really recognizing how much we need each other.” In the meantime, she adds, “the amount of sweatpants I’ve been wearing has been amazing.”

Meeting Swizz Beatz: She admits that before she got to know the producer and rapper Swizz Beatz, whom she married in 2010, she dismissed him as an arrogant show-off. After reading an interview in which Beatz boasted about writing many of his best compositions in 10 minutes, Keys, who proudly spent long days obsessing over every chord progression, trashed him to a friend. “I was like, ‘Of course he does his songs in 10 minutes — have you heard his songs?’” But the two eventually met, she recalls, “and when we got into the studio and started working together, we literally made a song in 10 minutes. I was like, ‘Aw, sh-t!’” It turned out that Beatz’s style wasn’t about haste or carelessness but inspiration — an ability to tap into “a place that’s all feeling and emotion and spirit,” she says. Keys stopped dissing him and started dating him.

Being kind to herself & other people: “I’m coming to the place now where I’m able to live more fully in my skin, my imperfections, my feelings, which are so hard to access. Because we want to protect our heart, right? That’s what we’re all doing in some way. And I think my ability to access that place has brought a deeper connection to other people.”

She’s learned to enjoy nice stuff: “I began to understand that my humility was sometimes a mask for self-worth issues. I was saying, ‘Oh, I don’t need much! I only need a little bit and I’m fine.’ I was kind of cutting off my blessings. But I started to recognize, ‘Wow, I have this wrong.’” She and Beatz have a tradition of out-spoiling each other with extravagant surprises on their birthdays; for one bash in New York, she rented out the Louis Vuitton store and the Guggenheim Museum. “Swizz is such a wild dreamer, and he loves beautiful art, beautiful clothes, and things that are well made. I’ve learned that I can totally remain humble but I don’t have to cut off the wonderful things that I deserve.”

[From InStyle]

It would have been nice to see a bracketed edit to the Swizz stuff, like “[Swizz was married at the time and once he and Alicia began dating, his estranged wife called her out publicly, and there was drama for years.]” But no! Not for perfect earth mother Alicia! Anyway, my favorite part of this was Alicia talking about learning how to enjoy her wealth and treating herself. It’s a weird thing when you realize “actually, I could afford that expensive purse/watch/vacation and I think I’ll take it.” I was going through a rotten time last year and I decided to give myself an expensive purse for my birthday and I have no regrets. I really deserved it.

Photos courtesy of InStyle.