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Alicia Keys. Pride Magazine. December 2012

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“A girl on fire just owns it. She doesn’t let anybody tell her who she is, who she can’t be or who she will be.”

Text of Alicia Keys. Pride Magazine. December 2012

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    Its undenIable something about Alicia Keys has well and truly changed. Pinpointing exactly what that change is however, is whats proving to be the tricky part. Sure, I could plump for the obvious things, the most outward changes like her body for starters. Im definitely not going overboard in saying that Alicias in the best shape of her career. If thats what motherhood does for a persons body, bring it on! Then of course, theres her hair. Gone are the free-flowing curls weve grown accustomed to and in their place, a short, slick cropped do. Yet still Im not satisfied. As clich as it sounds, the change is evidently one thats come from within.

    One thing that hasnt changed though, I notice as she greets me, are those velveteen vocal chords. Well, hello, she purrs seductively, drawing out the second part of her address, so she sounds just like your archetypal Bond villain. Instantly recognisable, its these same deep, sultry tones that made the world fall in love with the New York born, soulful songbird way back in 2001 when she set the charts alight with her debut album Songs in A Minor a glorious melding of old-school jazz, R&B and soul which would go on to sell 12 million copies. While signs of that gritty Brooklyn edge are still manifest, for the most part Alicia speaks softly and deliberately, with a languor that only a global star could get away with. Clearly she understands that good things come to those who wait. Far be it from me to disagree

    This time three years ago, Alicia Keys was gearing up for the release of her fourth album, 2009s The Element of Freedom. Fast forward to the present and shes back in the saddle once again for its much-anticipated follow up, Girl On Fire. Business as usual then. Well, it would be if not for the little fact that her life has undergone some pretty massive changes in the interim. Alicias 31 now, wife to American hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz and mother to their son, two-year-old Egypt. Chronic overachiever that she is, sitting back and chilling out after any of those monumental life changes was never going to be her story. So, what has she been up to? Oh, I have to think, she offers coyly. So I got married and had a baby, I

    I know who I am as a woman. PerIod.The extraordinary Ms Keys is back with a new album, a new look and a brand new attitude to boot. Bolder, braver and blazing hot if you cant handle the heat, then get the hell out of her way says Gloria Ogunbambo.

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    I know who I am as a woman. PerIod. a GIrl on fIre just oWns It.

    she doesnt let anybody tell

    her who she is, who she cant be or who she

    will be.

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    produced and created the score for my first ever Broadway play Stickfly, I did a TV movie for Lifetime called Firelight and my company Passion Projects has just wrapped our first indie film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, starring Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks. Oh, and in the midst of all that Ive been figuring out how to make a new record! Leave it to Alicia Keys to make you feel just a little bit lazy.

    Its a brave woman who can step outside of her comfort zone, despite the intense media glare, and turn her hand to something completely alien. And thats exactly what Alicia has done. Out from behind the piano has emerged a strong, self-assured woman, unafraid to push boundaries or immerse herself creatively into areas where shes still yet to find her feet; a woman whos raised her game performance wise and upped the levels in the fashion stakes too. To steal a lyric from the singers own songbook: this girl is on fire. I have changed, its officially true! Alicia laughs, as I seek her own perspective on the issue. Im justfree. Im more capable and confident and excited about doing things Ive never done before. Im having fun uncovering that part of myself. I love that people have noticed. Its something I want them to notice! And was this newfound confidence the motivation behind her recent big chop? Ive wanted to cut my hair for a really long time. I remember it was the day New Day came out and I was just like, What the hell! Do it. Right now! It felt so powerful its a new me, a new start.

    As we speak, it becomes apparent that her hair isnt the only thing shes done away with. Gone with those luscious locks is any regard for what other people have to say about her personal life. I know who I am as a woman, period. We spend too much of our lives asking people what they think when what we think is what matters. Now that Ive been able to let those people go, I just feel so much braver its a great feeling. This newly acquired take no prisoners attitude no doubt stems from

    the fact that her formerly squeaky-clean reputation was well and truly tarnished in 2009 by claims that she began dating her husband while he was still married to another woman. For the first time in her career; the intensely private and distinctly non-showbiz star; infamous for being all about her business; found herself in the midst of a full-blown scandal. Although Alicia maintains that this isnt how events went down, nevertheless the doggedly persistent homewrecker tag is still proving hard to shake.

    Ruthless as it may sound, theres something to be said for the liberating feeling that comes from weeding out the people who no longer fit in with the vision you have for your life and thats most certainly a power that Alicia Keys has harnessed and channelled into her latest studio effort. Listening to her album, particularly the imposing drum patterns and soaring chorus of the titular track Girl On Fire her evolution as an artist and human being is palpable. It feels like a movement is coming and so I feel it necessary to ask, what exactly it means to be a Girl On Fire? A girl on fire she begins, pausing a beat to consider, just owns it and is proud of who she is in this moment. She doesnt let anybody tell her who she is, who she cant be or who she will be. It dawns on me that this is the change Ive been trying to identify and rather than explain it to us in words, Alicias chosen, as she always does, to let the music and her piano do the talking for her.

    You can feel the same heart. Ive always written from a very personal place so that hasnt changed at all. Youre going to feel that and the piano will be as prevalent as always because its my best friend. Its not a departure. Its growth not just sonically but emotionally. Youre going to feel something fresh. Im just super excited for everyone to hear it. I want people to listen to it and years from now think, This album was that moment in my life.

    Alicia Keys new album Girl On Fire is out now.

    We spend too much of our lives asking people what they think.... now that Ive been able to let those people go, I just feel so much braver.

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    QuIcKfIre WIth ms KeYsI really love that blend of masculine and feminine. To me thats sexy. I love cool looking blazers, beautifully fitted pants and killer heels. Thats a look that makes me feel cool and powerful yet feminine and sexy all at the same time.

    My husband Is a car fanatic so one of our favourite things to do is take long drives together. Well take an amazing car, drive maybe an hour or two out of town and just find our own little corner in the world.

    The More I becoMe a WoMan the more I realise what a great and empowering feeling it is to be able to make a difference in the world. With my organisation, Keep a child alive, were able to provide medicine for children and families affected by aIds.

    love has made me appreciate those small everyday moments and the importance of carving out time to make them. Those are the moments I want to look back and remember.

    I Would Tell My 20-year-old self to live loudly and boldly and just be who you are! being in the spotlight, its almost like youre censored from your own self, because you feel like you have to fit everything you feel into the perfect sound byte. Thats not true.

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