Alicia Keys’ versatility as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, arranger, and producer has been recognized since the beginning of her career. Various media outlets have dubbed Keys the “Queen of R&B.” Alicia recently opened up about her work-life balance and mental health, because things weren’t always spectacular for her.
In a new cover story for Fast Company magazine’s summer issue, the 41-year-old musician and entrepreneur opened up about learning to balance her personal life with her many business ventures, including skincare line Keys Soulcare and an ongoing partnership with Athleta.
“I value myself now, and I think for a lot of years, I didn’t. I learned that in order for me to be the most productive, I have to be well. I prioritize myself in a way that I just didn’t [before].”
Reflecting on her decades-long career in the entertainment industry, Keys spoke about learning to strive for perfection despite the negative consequences.
“I think we all deal with this idea that we’re supposed to be perfect in some way. The same thing happened to me when I was 20. You don’t even know who you are at 20. You’re a little bit of what your mama told you. You’re a little bit of what the world told you. And then you’re supposed to go off into the world.”
“[Early in my career] people watched [me] intently. I’m a New Yorker. I didn’t want people to violate me. I immediately put up a wall, but I put up the worst kind of wall: the one that you pretend is not there. You think you’re protecting yourself but you’re actually hurting yourself. All I knew to do was just to fake it till you make it. Once I stopped doing that — which I have to remind myself to do every day — I started to feel much more honest, because I didn’t have to pretend.”
As a child, the musician looked up to her mother as a role model and emulated her mother’s tireless work ethic. “She had to work these long hours, and so I saw her and I said, ‘Okay, that’s what you do. You work hard,'” she recalled. “Because if you don’t work or don’t go for what you want, you won’t get it.”
While working nonstop has resulted in four Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping singles and 15 Grammy awards for Keys, she has shifted her perspective as an entrepreneur and strives to create a comfortable working environment.
“Coming from the music [industry], it’s kind of expected that you start early, and you’ll end late, and you’re never going to have weekends off. I have to work extra hard to create the proper culture.”
“If you have a weekly meeting, or a weekly or monthly video call — much of my company works remotely — or a big board meeting, whatever the case is, you can set the stage and say, ‘It’s important to me that we are not only doing well in our business, but we’re well in our lives and that our families are well.'”
In addition, Keys expressed her desire to make mental health care more accessible. “The fact that mental wellness is a privilege is horrible. The fact that’s how we deal with it, and it’s like, ‘If you could pay for it, you can have it,’ is horrendous,” she exclaimed. “We don’t invest in the whole being. We invest in the physical. But we don’t invest in the mental.”
Let’s hope Alicia continues to make progress. To get the latest updates, keep an eye on Thirsty.
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