Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Alicia Keys on the importance of activism and self-love

alicia-keys.jpg

Alicia Keys has spoken about the importance of political activism and self-confidence, saying: “I do feel there are certain things we come into this world having to defeat.”

The singer, who is the co-founder of civil rights initiative Moonshot and AIDS non-profit Keep a Child Alive, performed at the recent Women’s March on Washington and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election.

In a new interview, she shares her advice for staying politically motivated in turbulent times.

“I think the best advice that I would have – and look, I’m learning too – is that, first, you have to identify what you care about and why you care about it,” the 36-year-old singer tells US Glamour.

alicia keys

Alicia Keys performing at the Women's March on Washington.

Keys co-founded Keep A Child Alive in 2003, inspired by her mother’s close friend who died from AIDS. Last year she set up racial injustice initiative Moonshot after two African-American men – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – were shot by white police officers in the US.

“[Activism] has to be personal,” she explains. “It has to be something that fires you up or means something to you, or it’s not going to drive you.”


Read more: The 2017 feminist calendar: events to celebrate the sisterhood


Keys first shot to fame at the age of 20 with her 2001 album Songs in A Minor, and was raised in New York by her mother Teresa. She told Glamour that Teresa had a strong influence on her commitment to fighting for what she believes in.

“I’m sensitive to other people’s feelings, which I think comes from my mother,” she tells the magazine. “She raised me; it was just her and I. She would drop jewels on me and call me on shit, like, ‘You know, it’s not all about you. What about how someone else might feel?’

“And I think that’s the basis of activism: caring about more than just yourself.”

alicia keys

Keys greeting Barack Obama at a World AIDS Day event in 2011.

Moonshot’s mission statement compares ending racial injustice in America to “the seemingly impossible task” of landing a man on the moon. Shortly after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed in July 2016, Keys produced and appeared in a video titled ‘23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black In America’.

The campaign video starred other black stars including Beyoncé, Rihanna and Queen Latifah, and called for action from then-President Obama.


Read more: Solange Knowles has written a searing essay about being black in white spaces


Keys, who has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, says she’s not convinced his administration will be supportive of Moonshot’s work.

“The project is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been a part of, and it’s still developing,” she says. “We had a lot of support from the [Obama administration], but it’s a slow process.

“We’re not sure if the Trump administration will want to support this initiative.”

alicia keys

Keys made the decision to go make-up free in spring last year.

In the interview, Keys also discusses her decision to go make-up free last year, saying that she had struggled with self-belief for a long time.

“I do feel there are certain things we come into this world having to defeat,” says the singer. “For me, and I would not be surprised if a lot of women feel this same way, it’s this thing of not being 100% comfortable with myself.”

However, she says her understanding of what makes someone beautiful has evolved with time.

“Right now the way I define beauty is individuality and wisdom, which I think creates a certain inner confidence.

“Not confidence in a way that’s only on the surface, but a deep-down knowing of yourself or settling into who you are.”

Images: Rex Features

Related

alicia keys no make up photo shoot allure.jpg

This is why Alicia Keys wore make-up in her latest photo shoot

washington.JPG

36 of the most badass moments from the Women's March

alicia keys.jpg

Alicia Keys speaks out about impossible beauty standards

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Amanda Seyfried’s new abode to Jessica Chastain’s feline friend

by Nicola Colyer
17 Oct 2017

Jennifer Lawrence was forced into a naked line-up by a producer

In the name of weight-loss “inspiration”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Abigail Breslin’s photo reveals how domestic abuse can stay with you

The actor has opened up about the realities of living with PTSD

17 Oct 2017

“Why Liar is proof that TV's depiction of rape is damaging to women”

The proliferation of rape in TV and film is a real problem for the representation of women

by Harriet Hall
17 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Stylist
17 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16 by a director

“Producers made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Courtney Love tried to warn us about Harvey Weinstein in 2005

This video shows her speaking out against Weinstein over a decade ago

by Susan Devaney
17 Oct 2017

Hillary Clinton praises NHS after receiving medical treatment in UK

Clinton spoke about the UK’s health service during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show

by Moya Crockett
17 Oct 2017

Maisie Williams’ response to Sophie Turner’s engagement is perfect

There’s a reason these two have been dubbed #BFFgoals, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017

America Ferrera reveals she was sexually assaulted as a 9-year-old

‘I believed that I was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man’

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017