You have probably heard a hit song from Alicia Keys on the radio. What do you really know about this talented artist? Do you know what she does outside of music?

There are one of two categories that famous musicians and actors often fall into: giving and gracious, or self-centered and conceited. Without question, the former category is appropriate for singer, songwriter, and actress, Alicia Keys. Born into a humble family with a rich, diverse heritage, Alicia Keys has grown to become one of the world’s most popular singers and a respected philanthropist who gives back in any way she can.


Alicia Keys performs on her Freedom Tour at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, NJ
PHOTO: Tom Begasse

Immersed in Music from a Young Age

Keys was born in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. Born Alicia Augelio Cook on January 25, 1981, her mother is of Italian, English, Scottish and Irish descent, while her father is an African-American. After her parents split, she was raised by her single mother, who gave Keys endless opportunities to explore what was clearly a natural talent for music.

Her introduction to potential fame came in 1985 when she appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show, aged just four. By the age of seven, she was attending music and dance classes with the encouragement of her mother. She studied the classical piano works of composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin, and enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School at the age of 12. She graduated as the valedictorian after four years, signing a professional contract at the age of 16.


Alicia Keys, Clive Davis & Whitney Houston at music mogul Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Los Angeles, CA
PHOTO: Paul Smith/Featureflash

Career Success

It did not take long for the accolades to start piling up for Keys. Her debut album, “Songs in a Mirror,” sold more than 12 million copies and helped establish her as an overnight sensation. It would take an entire magazine spread to cover the list of accomplishments for Keys. In short, she is a 5-time recipient of American Music Award (AMA) achievements, a 10-time Billboard Music Award recipient, a 7-time BET Award recipient, and a 15-time Grammy Award recipient.

Trophies, awards, and plaudits from fans and those in the music industry are powerful testaments to the ability and impact of an individual’s career. But, the life of Alicia Keys stretches well beyond stage, screen, and the recording studio. She has used her success, fame, and fortune to give back to others through causes that hit close to home for her as an individual.


Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz attend the premiere of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City.
PHOTO: J Stone

The Women’s Conference

Raised, supported, and encouraged by a single mother throughout the formative years of her life, it seems only fitting that Alicia Keys would do anything in her power to help empower other women. Her life and achievements serve as a roadmap for young girls and women to follow, showing that hard work and dedication can bring success and lifetime achievements to anyone, man or woman. Keys is recognized by the annual Women’s Conference as someone who provides a bright guiding light for all women.


Alicia Keys on stage for Alicia Keys NBC Today Show Concert, Rockefeller Center Plaza, New York.
PHOTO: Everett Collection

Keep a Child Alive

Perhaps one of her greatest efforts came as co-founder of “Keep a Child Alive (KCA)”. As an entrepreneur and mother herself, Keys believes in philanthropy that brings about powerful social change. She has been a devoted and influential global advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Keys was inspired to launch Keep a Child Alive following a tour event in South Africa.

A friend took Keys around the country during her visit so she could familiarize herself with the fabulous culture of South Africa, but this also included an up-close look at the impact of HIV/AIDs in the country. She saw clinics, homes, and group settings where kids orphaned by the crisis lived, and felt compelled to act upon her return to the United States. In 2003, she co-founded Keep a Child Alive with partners in grassroots organizations to help combat physical, social, and economic impacts of HIV on children and families, with a particular focus on communities in Africa and India.
She built upon the power and reach of KCA in 2014, launching “We Are Here”. This secondary movement empowers the global community as it battles for a better world wherein everyone has a voice, is respected, and treated with dignity, as an equal.


Jessica Alba, Alicia Keys, Padma Lakshmi at Keep A Child Alive 5th Annual Black Ball Benefit, Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY,
PHOTO: Everett Collection

A Consummate Activist

Keys does not just focus on just big projects. She is never afraid to throw her hat in the ring to help out when emergencies occur or disaster strikes. She performed the Donny Hathaway song “Someday We’ll All be Free” at a televised benefit following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. After that, she lent her voice to a benefit concert for those along America’s Gulf Coast who had suffered through the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. She has also performed at benefit concerts following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2012 benefit for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New York/New Jersey.

Even her efforts to fight HIV/AIDs around the globe are not solely confined to her Keep a Child Alive activities. In 2013, she teamed up with Greater than AIDs in the launch of EMPOWERED, a public information campaign targeting women in the United States. As part of that effort, she spoke with five women whose lives had been affected by HIV/AIDs.

Even women’s issues are never far from her mind. In September 2012, she featured in a campaign known as “30 Songs/30 Days.” The effort supported the, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”, media project. Last but not least, in an effort to help all children have a chance for a brighter future, Keys donates to, “Giving From the Ground Up”, a non-profit organization that provides children and teenagers with scholarships to complete an education they could otherwise not afford.

With fame and fortune come a responsibility, at least in the mind of artists such as Alicia Keys. Rather than rest on her laurels and feel content with her situation, and that of her family, she gives tirelessly of herself to promote humanitarian causes and enabling more people a shot at a better life.