Alicia Keys has shared excerpts from her new autobiographical book “More Myself,” which details her lifelong battle to shed her “mask” and live her truth.
“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 cracked under the pressure of her 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 during the 80s, Keys admits that mask came when she had adopted a tomboy persona to hide the pain of not seeing her father Craig Cook 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.”
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Keys, whose mother is Scottish-Italian and whose father is Black says “Race was never a part of what made me feel guarded,” she writes.
“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.”
Keys notes that while she excelled academically, she also enjoyed misbehaving as a youth.
“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.”
Looking back, “I wasn’t fake, but I was trying to live up to all these fake ideals,” Keys says now. “It was like a habit. I had to start to break it.” These days, she’s speaking her mind a lot more, and feeling as confident on this inside as she portrayed to others all these years. “I feel more like an open book. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Keys wed music producer Swizz Beatz in 2010, and they share sons Egypt, 9, and Genesis, 5.
“More Myself” is published by Flatiron books and will be available in book and audiobook forms March 31. Read the full expert here.