12 Grammy Awards, 11 Billboard Music Awards and 5 American Music Awards... hasn’t success become something of a routine?
No way! You must be kidding! The minute I start looking at things that way, I’m in big trouble. I’ve genuinely, honestly enjoyed every step of it. The creative process is so fascinating, so magical that I’m forever dumbfounded by it. It’s like, ‘Wow!’ So when things like that come of it, it’s always the biggest blessing. The awards don’t make me feel cocky, quite the contrary: I always accept any form of recognition with the greatest humility. And when people rattle off numbers like that, I’m in shock.
Have you ever had any bad press?
I’ve been lucky, most of it is pretty great. They’ve put some ugly stuff out there, but most of the time, it’s just a pack of lies. Believe me: when there’s no dirt to dig, they’ll go sniffing through your garbage to pick out the choice morsels.
How come the paparazzi seem to spare you?
It’s very simple: celebrities that are relentlessly hounded by the paparazzi pick up their phones to let them know where they’re going to be shopping that afternoon and which flight they’ll be on the following morning. They’ll make sure to have lunch and dinner at the most fashionable eateries, where photo ops are all but featured on the menu. Making tabloid headlines is a full time job, and I simply don’t have the time for it. Some people perhaps feel that they need the attention, that they feel more complete when they’re basking in the limelight. In which case, good on them: I hope they enjoy it. But I need to be able to move the way I want to move, and I don’t like anybody getting in my way. I would become a very nasty person if I had to endure such scrutiny.
Why did you change your name from Augelio-Cook to Keys?
I felt that Keys best represented who I was as a person and an artist. I was originally toying with the idea of calling myself Alicia Wild... Wouldn’t that have been terrible? Having said that, when people get to know me, they can’t believe just how wild I am. I like people to draw their own conclusions, but there’s definitely something about me that gives people the impression that I’m squeaky- clean, intensely focused and dead serious. Let me set the record straight, once and for all: I’m a crazy, boisterous prankster with a filthy mouth.
Did you hang out with the trannies and crack whores when you were growing up in Hell’s Kitchen?
The neighbourhood was so diverse: walking home from the train station, there would be pimps, prostitutes, dealers and junkies on every corner, and yet there, at the end of the street, laid the bright lights and big dreams of Broadway.
Your mother is Irish-Italian, and your father is... what? Jamaican?
Everybody thinks I’m Jamaican, but I’m not. My father grew up in Maryland.
Does that make you black or white?
That makes me beautiful.