In the last month, it’s safe to say that singer/songwriter/humanitarian Alicia Keys has been a hot topic — at least in my world. From the pictures revealing her baby bump and pregnancy glow to her arriving at the BET Awards with her recently divorced fiance, Kaseem Dean, a.k.a. Swizz Beatz, and her seductive piano crawl during her tribute to Prince, she’s buzz worthy. (FTR: Pregnant or not, if I were singing “Adore,” I probably would have gotten up there, too. She was obviously feeling sexy, and if “Adore” doesn’t make you feel that way, something’s wrong.)
In that time, I’ve heard so many things. Either she’s a homewrecking, man-stealing hypocrite (How dare she stand there, big and pregnant, smiling after she’s caused another woman so much pain?) or just a woman in love, living life. (Swizz and his wife, Mashonda, were already on the outs, and you lose what wasn’t yours already, right?)
Fast-forward to her performance at the recent Essence Music Festival. She, the headliner for Saturday night’s concert, had a hard row to pull. She followed a tough act – Gladys Knight, who, though I missed her, was much too awesome to perform before Keys according to others. She took the stage and it was … weird. There was an undeniable silence in the crowd that I didn’t expect. I looked behind me to see a woman sitting two rows back among empty seats with her arms tightly folded. With a mean side-eye, she mouthed two words: man stealer. Wow.
Alicia put on a decent show, but something was missing in the atmosphere. The audience was lukewarm at best. During her performance, I checked Twitter. It was apparent that some people at the festival still weren’t happy about Keys’s indiscretions.
“Alicia Keys is almost working as hard as Breezy for redemption. Essence chicks aren’t fans of infidelity … no shade.”
“Hearing Alicia sing ‘Karma’ is … interesting.”
So that was the uncomfortable feeling I was getting. Did Keys feel it, too? Swizz Beats was officially divorced as of May. The two are clearly happy, and they plan to marry soon, according to entertainment reports. Even so, some of Keys’s most devoted fans have a serious problem with her publicized relationship with then-married Swizzy. My question is this: When is Keys going to address the issue of dating a married man, or should she at all?
The situation seems to mirror the Tiger Woods fiasco. All Woods owes us is a great game of golf, not a detailed, worldwide apology about something that directly affects his wife. Do celebrities’ indiscretions in their personal lives affect their business lives to the point where they owe their fans explanations or apologies? Will those two lines always cross for certain folks?
Let’s look back at Keys. Should she be expected to give her fans the lowdown on her relationship with Swizz Beatz (because it’s clearly complicated) or is she only required to make good music?
Unfortunately for celebrities, public relations is the name of the game these days, and it’s not hard to do. (Celebrities are using Twitter as a free publicity agent. Check out celebritytweets.com.) It’s clear that Keys has adopted the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, and her career might be affected because of it.
I’m neutral on the issue, but for sure her involvement with a married man doesn’t support her platform on women’s empowerment. She recently launched a website, iamasuperwoman.com, where she writes on the homepage:
“Welcome to a powerful, passionate, radiant, exciting, addictive, compassionate, and loving virtual world called IAAS, which stands for I Am a Super Woman! For many of us, that is not just the title of a song but a mantra. My friends and I at AK Worldwide are launching a new venture and would like you to join us. We’re creating a fresh new source for positive and inspiring news, a destination which will empower and link female voices and unleash the super woman in us all.”
Does her behavior support her platform and the positive image she aspires for women? Really, who’s to blame here? Fallen celebrities or society for placing talented individuals on sky-high pedestals?
Put yourself in Alicia’s position. Would you hide out until you give birth then release a statement regarding your relationship, or keep your personal affairs just that — personal? She seems to have taken the latter approach but at what cost?