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.

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49 Responses to “Alicia Keys: ‘My humility was sometimes a mask for self-worth issues’”

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  1. Who ARE These People? says:

    “Now that I’m rich, I don’t have to pretend I don’t want to live like a rich person.”

  2. MarineTheMachine says:

    You’re not alone on the “Alicia is so phoney” wagon! The way she is rewriting her love history with Beatz by omitting the big picture must be a slap in the face for his ex-wife every time (but I am petty as hell so…).

    • Pix says:

      Same. She may talk a good game but I remember her home wrecking deeds and how Dirty she played the whole thing. She lost a lot of support and hasn’t been the star she could have been. I just don’t see her selling hit records they way she did before the scandal. She’s kinda lucky she got that gig as a judge on The Voice. It was a pretty big fall.

    • BlueSky says:

      No, you are not petty. I can’t stand her and her faux feminist BS. I used to like her too before all the homewrecker stuff. He’s no prize either and equally culpable. Openly dated a married man and acted as if she was above criticism. She thinks she’s so wise but she is just full of sh@t.

    • Lexilla says:

      Also, anyone who uses the words “my humility” is not actually humble.

    • Mumbles says:

      Agreed. She rubbed me the wrong way when she appeared on the 9/11 telethon a month or so after her debut album. Stuck out like a sore thumb among Stevie Wonder, U2, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Springsteen, Mariah. Now, it was Clive Davis who got her on. But “Humility” is not the word that comes to mind.

    • Snazzy says:

      Here just to agree with what everyone else has said! Cannot stand her!

  3. Mina_Esq says:

    I feel the exact same way about her. Still love her music, but she is trash as a person.

  4. CROWHOOD says:

    Maybe it’s a respect thing for all involved. I wouldn’t want to be acknowledged by my ex’s new wife every time she spoke. We grew up in a very “least said, soonest mended” household so I could be alone here but maybe the 3 of them have worked things out and it’s not on us to expect it to be some kind of way.

  5. Albalilium says:

    I used to like her a-lot. But yeah i canceled her for that s..t she did with Swizz. Everybody will remember that for the rest of her life. Every interview she will ever do this will be brought up.

  6. Mrs. Peel says:

    They bought that crazy glass bespoke mansion featured a few weeks ago on Million Dollar Listing L.A. for $20 million! Pretty sure that is the backdrop for the InStyle photo shoot.

    • Milkweed says:

      Wow thanks! I love MDLLA and hadn’t heard this. So they bought it right before the pandemic…I wonder if that was good or bad timing.

  7. Lexilla says:

    Just curious, do family members get paid when they’re the photographers? How does that work?

  8. pollyv says:

    I too find her phoney af. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her perform on some show in the last few years where she doesn’t prelude the song with some “woke”, celebrity-style virtue signalling that turns me off and the tv gets turned off at the same time.

  9. Milkweed says:

    She hosted a great Black Lives Matter special on Nickelodeon. My kids learned a lot from it.

  10. Case says:

    LOL I have NEVER found her to be humble. I think she’s talented and beautiful but clearly thinks a lot of herself.

  11. Chica1971 says:

    “She’s a pill” like my mama used to say. Too much conflict in her head.
    If you have to fake humility, you probably aren’t.
    Her earth mother routine is in full on that Vogue Beauty routine she did during lockdown. As much as she wasn’t into wearing makeup a few years ago, I think this is a time when highlighting her freckles would have been so cute.

    • Deedee says:

      She wore makeup, but it was only to give her a natural look. Adam Levine called her out on it when they were on the Voice together and she was not a happy camper.

  12. Kayleigh says:

    I agree with what you said. Phony, homewrecker (he is trash too, obviously), and why does she always try to sing notes she can’t hit!?! I just never felt like she was real, she seems to do this “ok, my character is flawless, strong, and will empower women!” When in reality she lost a lot getting involved with someone else’s husband, including her image. I always thought he was a climber for latching onto her, and instead of brining his name and work up, it just dragged her down.

  13. Lunasf17 says:

    She seemed like a one hit wonder to me who started getting on these dumb reality shows and was able to extend her career. I forgot about the shady swizz beats thing! And I am so sick of hearing about celebrities and their excessive consumerism especially in this climate. Just stop, You could’ve used that money to feed the hungry or house the homeless provide healthcare for those in need but instead you bought out a Louis Vuitton store?! F off ! If that’s what you’re doing with your money then don’t even mention it. You’re not woke because you’re finally enjoying being rich, you’re just another consumer who gets joy from buying expensive crap you don’t need.

    • Beach Dreams says:

      Alicia is many things but she certainly isn’t a one-hit wonder. She was very successful with her first 2-3 albums until the drama with Swizz Beatz happened.

  14. betsyh says:

    “I’ve learned that I can totally remain humble but I don’t have to cut off the wonderful things that I deserve.” Being humble and deserving things seems contradictory. Instead be humble and be grateful for opportunities, rewards, and the ability to buy beautiful things.

    • Granger says:

      My husband always says to our kids, when they’re whining that they “deserve” a new phone or toy: “You’re acting like life owes you something. It doesn’t. Be grateful for everything you have and then we’ll talk.”

      • Leigh says:

        She was talking about spending her own money, not someone else’s. How does she not deserve what she’s earned through her own hard work and talent?

  15. Suzieq359 says:

    Can’t stand her. Period.

  16. Jules says:

    Hilariously tone-deaf. This is the exact opposite of having humility.

  17. lucy2 says:

    I’ve always thought she was so beautiful, and she is really talented, but her personal life does seem messy. But it was a while ago and they’re still together, hopefully everyone involved has moved forward.

  18. Headintheclouds says:

    I saw her on the Jonathan Ross show a few years back and she was talking about how much she hated going to Germany because it always felt ‘like people were shouting’ at her. I thought it was such a slap in the face of all her German fans who spend money on her music and gigs and adore her. Can’t get over that so it’s a no from me too.

  19. LoonaticCap says:

    I used to love her and well.. I don’t hate her now because of her personal life – truth is probably 90% of the artists we admire as trash people.. Like many of us and, if the person isn’t a criminal, racist etc I can separate their personal life from their work. I just feel she lost her music mojo when she met Swizz. She’s slowly coming back to ir now but I think her past 2 or 3 albums are trash.
    I have good hopes for the new one.

  20. Imogene says:

    I’ve never liked Alicia Off-Keys since the Swizzbeats thing (don’t like him either but she seemed so smug about the whole thing) and after she made a big statement about not wearing make-up which is fine but don’t judge people who do – also, it is easy to avoid makeup when you look like she does. Maybe that doesn’t work for all of us.

    • Jules says:

      I think she was caught lying about the no makeup thing too, I remember there was some controversy with all this.

  21. Melissa says:

    This entire thread has given me hope because I have always felt a little guilty by how strongly I react to her when she starts to speak. She is stunning and I love her voice, but as soon as she assumes that lecturing monk pose and starts whispering love, fairies and unicorn farts I want to stab her with a spoon.

  22. Dee Kay says:

    Wow! Thanks for linking to that post from 2009 about Swizz Beatz’s (what a ridiculous name) ex-wife, Mashonda. I knew that Alicia Keys had broken up a marriage but reading Mashonda’s open letter or whatever to AK was an education!!!

  23. Tanya says:

    So she is a quiet and generous supporter of a charity I’m involved in, and I know her through her kids. She honestly is far humbler and nicer than I’d be in her shoes.

  24. yinyang says:

    Lately I’ve been seeing too much of her.

  25. Rose says:

    People seem needlessly offended by Alicia on Mashonda’s behalf. A couple of years ago, Mashonda Tifrere wrote “Blend: The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family,” and got real about their journey together to becoming one extended happy family. Mashonda values their blended family and says that she regrets the bitterness towards Alicia that she expressed during the divorce. She seems like an incredible woman. Swizz has had children with 4 different women during some overlapping relationships. Several of them were not aware of each other. Some of his behaviors seem really sketchy but that’s on him, imho, not the women with whom he was involved.

  26. WilliamJoelene says:

    I didn’t realize SB was married when they started dating. But even I know about his side chicks. I’ve always seen her as someone in denial about what’s plain to everyone else. I predict she’ll finish it once her kids are a bit older.

  27. Grant says:

    I’ll never forget when she was a judge on The Voice. She was trying to woo a contestant to her team by basically stating that out of the other three judges on the panel, she had the most vocal range… when Kelly Clarkson was two seats down. Kelly Clarkson, who has more range in one pinky finger than Alicia Off-Keys does in her whole body. Alicia may have had a nice voice at the beginning of her career, but I can’t find a recent live performance where she isn’t tremendously pitchy. I remember years ago she performed on the Hope for Haiti telethon and basically screamed her way (off-key, I might add) through the song.

  28. JustBe says:

    When the controversy happened around Alicia Keys and Swiss Beatz getting together, I had a lot of strong, negative feelings towards keys. But, eventually, I had to ask myself why. I was not personally harmed by their affair. I did not personally know Mashonda. I understand that Alicia was wrong for having a relationship with a supposedly married man (I say supposedly here because only Swizz Beats and Mashonda know what arrangement they had). Alicia did get with him while he was married, but so did his previous wife Mashonda. SB is the person that has a defined, long-term pattern of philandering, but it’s mostly the women that have received all of the hate and negative career impact. It’s been 10 years since Keys and SB got married. Why are the majority of the comments still filled with so much negativity towards her when his ex-wife has moved on and is thankful for the blended family that they have created? Some commenters say that it’s because of AK’s attitude or words regarding her marriage. But, how is she supposed to respond after an affair that occurred 10 years ago evolved into a marriage that has produced two children? Why do so many women still have so much hatred for her?
    There is no other logical explanation for me outside of misogyny. Women are always expected to be morally outstanding. But, the reality is that we’re human, with most of us failing in some ways big and small.
    What saddens me about this type of negative discourse is that it moves the needle to the far right (into conservative territory) in regards to less people openly talking about the trials and tribulations of their relationships or the types of relationships (open marriage, polyamory, monogamish, or traditional) that they choose to have. Not being able to have an open dialogue about the realities of marriage and different types of family setups hurts everyone.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      All of this. It’s so good that you’ve progressed to the point of recognizing that. It’s not always easy, because our patriarchal society encourages us to move on quickly from men’s problematic behaviors while holding on to women’s for years and years. What’s strange is that everything you said is considered common sense on Angelina Jolie threads. Also, I didn’t know Mashonda basically got Swizz Beats the same way she lost him. People should move on even more so, with that being the case.