R&B songstress and pianist Alicia Keys is baring her soul in her new memoir, More Myself.
The book details her intrepid journey from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen to 15-time Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter. For the first time ever, Alicia is opening up about her memories and experiences in the music industry. In one excerpt from More Myself, the 39-year-old recalled a harrowing moment she was manipulated into posing topless by a photographer when she was 19 years old.
At the time, she was gearing up for the release of her acclaimed 2001 debut album, Songs In A Minor, and was at a photoshoot for one of her first magazine covers, according to The Jasmine Brand. The photographer insisted that he needed to shoot photos of her alone, which her team obliged. “When I emerge from the dressing room, there’s just the two of us on set. ‘Open up your shirt a little,’ he directs while firing off a flurry of camera snaps,” Alicia writes in her book. “My spirit is screaming that something is wrong, that this feels sleazy. But my protests, lodged in the back of my throat, can’t make their way out.”
The photographer then asked her to pull the top of her jeans down a bit in the front. Despite her misgivings, Alicia did what he asked. “If I say no, what doors will be closed to me? I swallow my misgivings, tuck my thumb between the denim and my skin, and obey,” she recollected. She says she “cried harder than ever” once she went home after the photoshoot. Alicia was appalled once she saw the cover when it finally came out. “On the day of the cover’s debut, I pass a newsstand where the magazine is on display. I almost throw up.”
While she didn’t name the photographer or magazine in question, longtime fans speculate that she’s referring to her 2001 Dazed cover.
Alicia added that beyond the feeling of just baring skin where she normally hadn’t, the overall discomfort stemmed from the feeling that she was taken advantage of. “This isn’t about me showing some skin, which I’ll do on my own terms, for my own purposes, in the coming years. It’s about feeling manipulated. It’s about being objectified,” she writes. “I am beyond embarrassed, ashamed that I’ve sold part of myself…Had Jeff [Keys’ manager] been in there, he would’ve voiced what I couldn’t at the time: Hell no. Close that shirt. Take your hand off your tit. And you’re not going to yank down your jeans.”
(Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)