When she first stepped onto the scene in 2001, at the age of 20, with her hit single “Fallin’, Alicia Keys became known for her distinctive style as much as for her immense talent.
Even though the early aughts was a simpler time that predated the massive internet-powered media gossip machine that we have now, rumors still circulated that Keys’ tomboyish style was an expression of her sexuality.
In reality, her love of fitted hats, cornrows, and baggy pants grew from a need to deter street harassment, which started for the songstress at a young age on the streets of New York City.
Keys recently penned a short essay on her blog, writing about her experiences, and how she struggled to find her voice and come into her own as a young woman.
I definitely started hiding when I got old enough to walk down my NY streets alone. I started to notice a drastic difference in how men would relate to me if I had on jeans, or if I had on a skirt, or if my hair was done pretty. I could tell the difference, I could feel the animal instinct in them and it scared me. I didn’t want to be talked to in that way, looked at in that way, whistled after, followed. And so I started hiding. I chose the baggy jeans and timbs, I chose the ponytail and hat, I chose no makeup, no bright color lipstick or pretty dresses. I chose to hide. Pieces at a time. Less trouble that way.
I remember feeling that same way when I first started to get recognized as an artist. I had the baggy/braided/tough NY tomboy thing mastered, that was who I was (or who I chose to be) and I felt good there. Then, because of the way I spoke or carried myself, people started calling me gay and hard and I wasn’t gay, but I was hard and although I felt comfortable there, it made me uncomfortable that people were judging me and so slowly I hid that side of myself. I put on dresses and didn’t braid my whole head up, so people could see more of the “real” me, even though at that point I’m sure I was more confused then ever of what the real me was.
I remember one interview I gave had strong social thoughts from a book I just read. The writer misunderstood me and wrote something that I didn’t say. I felt judged by those reading it. Out came the shell again and me under it. Hiding, piece by piece. Little by little. More and more.
Read More HERE.