The Voice judge Alicia Keys is featured in the February 2017 issue of Allure.
What isn’t immediately apparent but sinks in after about ten minutes of conversation is her sincerity and warmth. (Mother of three was right, too.) Each question matters to her, and she considers her answers carefully. Alicia Keys is not playing a game. Her words, her music, her political activism—even her decision to do the no-makeup thing (this is the first time she has worn makeup in an editorial photo shoot since last spring) and to let her hair be free—are part of a cohesive whole. “I’m not a slave to makeup. I’m not a slave to not wearing makeup either. I get to choose at [any] given moment. That’s my right.”
She is a 15-time Grammy winner. To put that in perspective: Adele has ten; Taylor Swift, ten also; Mary J. Blige, nine; Rihanna, eight. Sometimes—rarely—in this world, prizes get awarded in a way that is commensurate with achievement, thank Allah, Jehovah, and Zeus. (Those are in alphabetical order, by the way; I may be a Christian, but if another guy’s deity wants to do me a solid, I’m very grateful. I do wish the entire panoply of gods could get together and stop my friends from using reply all. That’s what I pray for; I figure it’s an easier lift than universal amity or abolishing the electoral college.) On that topic, who could forget Keys’s impassioned performance of “Superwoman” and “In Common” at the Democratic National Convention last summer? The first song was dedicated to the “Mothers of the Movement,” a group that advocates for police reform and gun-violence prevention. The second one was a call to, in her words, “stand together and be united.” Keys’s deep disappointment with the election results is palpable.
“The We Are Here Movement [a wide-ranging social-justice organization founded by Keys] will stand in support of Hispanics, refugees, people of color, Muslims, and anyone who feels afraid in the upcoming Trump era. I have a hope that President Trump, as a New Yorker, will have more liberal views than his campaign rhetoric suggests and that in the end our system of justice will prevail. But it does hurt that racism was not a deal breaker for millions in the election. However, as an artist, I expect to continue to use my voice for things that matter, as I have since the beginning of my career. That won’t change. As an activist, I will continue to fight for what’s right. That won’t change, either. It’s time for all of us to be engaged. As a mother, I am a lioness.”
It’s time for Keys to go pick up her son, and soon we are exchanging pleasantries. (It’s so odd to me that she has a reputation for being tough—which she herself confirms—and yet she behaves as if her bedtime reading were Emily Post.) In a moment, her tone changes: She has left something unsaid, something that she’s considered and that seems tailored precisely for Allure. “I think there’s something really beautiful about what resonates from within us. One thing I’ve heard more than ever is this glow that people refer to that I have. I kind of recognize that glow because I’ve begun to listen to myself inside. And I think there’s something really powerful that happens when you start to listen to yourself. It makes you feel more aware. In touch. More confident. I’m not more confident because I think I’m better than, but because I’ve been hearing myself more, listening to myself more. And that’s taken a little minute to arrive at that place. But there’s definitely something powerful about the way your inner feels that reflects on the outer, on your skin. That, to me, is real beauty.”
It’s a gift to any writer. A moment of honesty and reflection, something that allows Keys’s story to make perfect sense. It’s something we call a kicker, and she wrapped it up in a big red bow.
The Voice premieres February 27th on NBC.
Photo Credit: Paola Kudacki for Allure