Alicia Keys is a mega-talented musician and singer but she’s gone through a lifelong journey to find out who she really is.
It’s one of the main topics of her forthcoming book More Myself, where she describes that for a while she was trying to be someone she wasn’t.
“I was building my life around this image of perfection, and it was really oppressive,” writes Keys in an excerpt shared by PEOPLE, adding that she nearly crumbled under the pressure of her exponentially growing success in 2006. “I was clearly a woman who wanted to talk about truth and empowerment and strength, but when I really looked at myself, I realized that my whole life I’ve kind of been putting on a mask.”
Growing up in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood during the 1980s, Keys said she adopted a tomboy persona to hide the pain of not seeing her father Craig Cook, who would rarely visit with her as a young girl.
“For me, a seed of worthlessness was planted in childhood,” she writes. “As well-intentioned as Craig was, and as much as he was dealing with in his own life, his absence impacted me in ways I’m still uncovering. It left a hole in me.”
Keys, whose father is Black and mother is white, also cited race as something that left her confused growing up. “Race was never a part of what made me feel guarded,” she wrote.
She continued: “‘You’re the best of both worlds,’ my mother would often remind me. And she was right. Yet since my mother understood that America would compel me to choose, she raised me with an awareness that’s still intact: I am a Black girl.”
Alicia Keys also revealed what kind of student she was as a kid, and while she did well academically, she also says she got into her fair share of trouble.
“At any one of the shops on the street around the corner from our apartment a kid could get anything: a fake ID (like the one I used to sneak into a club called Tunnel), a fistful of blunts (I smoked my share), a pack of condoms (which led to the used one that somehow got lost under the couch on the afternoon I lost my virginity). My mother had to be strict as a matter of my survival,” she writes in the excerpt.
Keys is currently married to Swizz Beatz and has two sons – Egypt, 9, and Genesis, 5. In 2016, the singer published her famous open-letter about loving herself and kicked off her viral #NoMakeup movement.
More Myself is published by Flatiron books and will be available in book and audiobook forms March 31. Read the full expert here.
Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Alicia Keys