by Selam Aster
Alicia Keys is two things to two different groups of people. On the one hand, she’s an amazing artist who is also a staunch philanthropist. On the other hand, she’s a great artist whose philanthropic endeavors really can’t be trusted. After all, she’s a home-wrecker.
Every time news emerges about Keys’ work with her organization Keep A Child Alive, which provides treatment and support to families affected by HIV and AIDS, it’s taken with some level of cynicism and apathy. In other words, eyes roll amongst Black folk. Sure, her personal life is her personal life but celebrities are public citizens. It’s difficult to accept Key’s proposed image of a do-gooder when we’re led to believe that she didn’t do right in her personal life. For those who don’t know, Keys supposedly had a three year long affair with producer Swizz Beats, while he was married. Swizz eventually left his wife to be with Keys and they married in 2010.
Fortunately for Keys, the mainstream audience doesn’t have the same feelings as those who read blogs and news sites targeted to African-Americans, because white media basically didn’t cover news related to the affair. The omission was so glaring that The Root compared how mainstream media handled news relating to Keys and the singer Fantasia, who was embroiled in her own drama. Fantasia’s affair with a married man made headlines across People.com and Access Hollywood, whereas news of Alicia Keys’s affair was only mentioned in the Black media circuit.
Even Oprah, who questioned Naomi Campbell about the fact she was dating a married man (he’s officially separated), never brought up Key’s alleged infidelity when she had her on as a guest. So what gives? Does Alicia Keys’ have such good publicists that she can buy silence from influential reporters? I don’t think it’s too far off to believe considering Tom Cruise has successfully quelled alleged rumors for many, many years, thanks to a healthy legal team.
In any case, the brand of Alicia Keys, the sassy New York artist who gives back to her community, is tarnished in the Black community. Like Angelina Jolie, who wasn’t spared by the media and is still branded a home-wrecker, Keys (in the African-American community) will be associated with her artistry first, her infidelity second, and her humanitarian crusades last. Jolie can go on countless UN missions to third world countries but it will never erase the public’s memory as to what she did to America’s reigning sweetheart Jennifer Aniston.
There’s no doubt that she stands out from the pack with her dedication to her cause, as she continues to dutifully promote her organization. But it is unknown for how long her reputation amongst Black fans will linger and to what extent that her personal life has undermined her image as a humanitarian. But in any case, what matters is the services that are delivered via her organization and star power. Maybe, Key’s drive is partially motivated by her need to do right by us…or maybe not.