At the beginning of her singing career, Alicia Keys was known for her tomboy style and signature braids. And although the look certainly set her apart from her R&B counterparts, it also left her open to unending rumors about her sexuality and criticism from fans about looking too boyish. In the years since her debut, Keys’ style has become more feminine. But for Keys, the struggle to finding her version of femininity has not been easy and in a new blog post she explains just how difficult that journey was.
In a blog posted on her own personal website, Keys reveals that she decided to dress like a tomboy at a young age to avoid being hit on and sexually harassed by men on the street.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve hidden myself. It might have started in school when I realized that I caught on to things a little quicker, and teachers started to show slight favor to me, or use me as an example. I remember feeling like my friends would make fun of me or look at me as if I was different from them and so… I started hiding. Not intentionally, I didn’t mean to, but I did. Little pieces at a time,” she wrote.
“I definitely started hiding when I got old enough to walk down my NY streets alone. I started to notice a drastic difference in how men would relate to me if I had on jeans, or if I had on a skirt, or if my hair was done pretty. I could tell the difference, I could feel the animal instinct in them and it scared me. I didn’t want to be talked to in that way, looked at in that way, whistled after, followed. And so I started hiding. I chose the baggy jeans and timbs, I chose the ponytail and hat, I chose no makeup, no bright color lipstick or pretty dresses. I chose to hide. Pieces at a time. Less trouble that way,” she added.
Keys also addressed the many rumors she faced about her look when she became an international superstar.
“I remember feeling that same way when I first started to get recognized as an artist. I had the baggy/braided/tough NY tomboy thing mastered, that was who I was (or who I chose to be) and I felt good there. Then, because of the way I spoke or carried myself, people started calling me gay and hard and I wasn’t gay, but I was hard and although I felt comfortable there, it made me uncomfortable that people were judging me and so slowly I hid that side of myself. I put on dresses and didn’t braid my whole head up, so people could see more of the ‘real’ me, even though at that point I’m sure I was more confused then ever of what the real me was,” Keys wrote.
But that’s not all she had to say. Read the rest of her post after the cut.