Alicia Keys is one of the greatest artists of this generation. A soulful songstress and incredible musician, Keys never fails to amaze us with powerful songs on all of her albums. The 15-time-Grammy-award winner has certainly had her own unique style throughout her career, which has evolved as Keys has herself. See for yourself how Alicia Keys has switched it up throughout the years!
We all know and love her braids, but we were floored when she first took them down!
Alicia Keys Always Had Her Own Style
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Alicia Keys first arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, rocking braids with beads and classic fedora hats. Keys got on everyone’s radar with her debut single “Fallin'” in 2001, showcasing that she not only had soulful vocals with incredible range but that her range extended into her musical abilities.
Not only did it spend several weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, “Fallin'” was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 2002 and ended up winning Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, as well as Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Back To The Beginning
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In a 2017 interview with Allure, Keys says of this photo, “Back to my beginnings! I just love this. The whole look…all the beads in my hair. Those are some of the best memories ever. It’s another illusion, obviously, but I’ve come back to that place where I am very comfortable in my skin.”
Aside from her iconic braids, Keys style here was very indicative of the trends in the early 2000s, from oversized and blinged-out belt buckles and off-the-shoulder tops. The confidence Keys exudes in this photo alongside a young Britney Spears is probably what helped propel her career onto the amazing path that it took.
Songs In A Minor
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Here is Alicia Keys at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards looking pretty humbled and down to earth considering her big wins that year. Not only did her single “Fallin'” win those three previously-mentioned Grammys, that year Keys also took home Grammys for Best New Artist and Best R&B Album for Songs in A Minor.
Keys was also named Favorite New Artist in both the Pop/Rock and Soul/R&B categories at the American Music Awards that year.
Despite her escalating status as a star, Keys never got too flashy with her fame, as you will soon see.
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Here is Alicia Keys performing on Good Morning America in 2003, wearing a long coat and a hat, similar to what she wears in her music video for “Fallin.'” Early on in her career, Keys portrayed herself as a “hard” tomboy to avoid unwanted attention.
Keys writes in her blog, “I had the baggy/braided/tough NY thing mastered… Then, because of the way I spoke or carried myself… 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 than ever of what the real me was.”
Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist
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Despite struggling to show the world who she really was, Keys continued to prove herself as a powerful force in music. Here she is in 2004 at the 32nd Annual American Music Awards, where she beat out Beyoncé and Janet Jackson as Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist that year.
Her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, debuted in December of the previous year to rave reviews. The sophomore album has some of Keys’ greatest hits such as “You Don’t Know My Name” and “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Coming Into Her ‘Womanliness’
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This is Alicia Keys visiting TRL at the MTV Studios in 2005. Here you can see that she’s begun to let her hair down and show the world a more feminine Alicia Keys. This is really when Keys began varying her hair between braids and straight styles.
Telling Allure that this was around the time she was “coming into my womanliness,” she also says, “I was born with curly hair, and I spent all my life trying to push it back, make it straighter, have it not be so big and frizzy. I have the option to do both, but I really like it curly right now [in 2017].”
Keys looks adorable in this photo from her early career, but wait until you see how her style changes down the road…
A Sign Of The Times
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Here, Alicia visits TRL again in 2005 and her outfit is definitely demonstrative of the times, which is clear if you’ve seen what other celebs were wearing in the early aughts.
Still, Alicia rocks her crop top here and though she would admit later that she “hid” herself during this time, you wouldn’t be able to tell from this picture. In this shot, she positively shows off her svelte midriff. Continuing with the trend, she sports a messenger hat and another belt with a huge buckle. Also, her hair looks awesome down with her natural curls.
The Tonight Show With David Letterman Appearance
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In 2007, Alicia Keys appeared on The Tonight Show with David Letterman sporting soft curls and bangs, which is definitely one of the most romantic versions of Alicia that the public has seen.
Having made her transition into acting at this point, Alicia appeared on Letterman to promote Smokin’ Aces, which was her film debut. That year she also had a role in The Nanny Diaries and she released her third studio album, As I Am, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
2008 Grammy Awards And A Tribute To Frank Sinatra
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This is Alicia Keys arriving at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008. The previous year her third studio album, As I Am, was released and featured another hit single, “No One.” The song peaked at number one on Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks.
That year, she opened the Grammy’s with a performance tribute to Frank Sinatra’s “Learnin’ the Blues,” which she sang alongside archival footage of Sinatra performing the song to stimulate a duet. She also won the Grammy’s for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for “No One.”
It’s clear that Keys really started to own it this year, but just wait until we get closer to the present day!
The Element Of Freedom
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This is Alicia Keys attending a launch party for her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom, in 2009. By now, it’s obvious that Keys is becoming more confident in presenting herself as a strong woman who is both tough and beautiful at the same time.
Though she released her fourth album that year, perhaps the most notable mark of her career that year was collaborating with rapper Jay-Z on “Empire State of Mind.” The song was a commercial and critical success, winning the Grammy’s for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song the following year.
Keys’ Evolution Continues
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Alicia Keys continued to evolve into a woman of stature and class well after the aughts had ended. Here she is at a magazine event where you can tell the styles of the times were certainly shifting. Keys is a lady in red with a dress that complements her figure and you can see that she is again beginning to embrace her curls.
2010, in particular, was a very personal year for Keys. In July of that year, she and rapper Swizz Beats got married and the newlyweds welcomed their first child, Egypt Daoud Dean, that October.
The Look Of Authority
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Here is Alicia Keys in 2011 at the 8th Annual Keep A Child Alive Black Ball. Sporting a tailored blazer, she opted for pants as opposed to a dress and wore her hair in an updo, serving serious business-chic vibes.
The sleek, professional look is less about the glam and focuses more on the event, which Keys had a pleasure of hosting that year. Keys worked with the Keep A Child Alive charity to bring celebrities together at an event to raise awareness and funds to help kids afflicted with HIV and AIDS.
Alicia Keys started adding more power and authority to her look during this time, but her 2016 look was perhaps the most profound change of all!
Girl On Fire
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In this photo Keys sports a sleek bob and a futuristic silver gown on the red carpet at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards where she debuted her hit from that year, “Girl on Fire.” She performed the song for the first time alongside Nicki Minaj accompanied with a routine by Olympian Gabby Douglas.
“Girl on Fire” was the most successful single and title track on Keys’ fifth studio album. Keys conceived the song shortly after giving birth to her first son and intended it as a track meant to liberate and empower her fans.
Ohh La La In Cannes
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Here is Alicia Keys looking as elegant as ever in a sleek, black cut-out gown on the red carpet of the 2013 NRJ Music Awards in Cannes, France. Leave it up to Keys to make a mohawk look classy and stylish!
Keys attended this international music awards show to again perform her hit “Girl on Fire,” where it peaked at number five on French charts. In the U.S., the song peaked at 11 on Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, as well as garnering over 4 million paid downloads.
Sporting A Fedora
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In this photo, Alicia Keys is attending an event in September 2014. Here she is clearly paying homage to the early days in her career, still able to fabulously pull off her braids with beads. She is even classically sporting a fedora and a sheer top, which she wore plenty of back in the day!
If you can’t tell, Keys is actually around six months pregnant in this photo. She gave birth to her second son, Genesis Ali Dean, in December of that year.
Of course, this was a great nod to her early days, but the Alicia Keys of today is the most powerful manifestation of the singer we’ve seen yet!
Billboard’s 10th Annual Women in Music Event
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Alicia Keys is embracing both her tomboy and feminine side in this photo from Billboard’s 10th Annual Women in Music event in 2015. Looking classically beautiful with a bold red lip and soft curls swept to the side, she accentuated the look with rugged touches like the leather jacket and the graphic tee. The leather pencil skirt and heels help make this the look of a powerful woman.
Here we can guess that Alicia is truly being Alicia and is completely comfortable with how she is portraying herself to the public. You’d think this is the peak of her confidence, but nothing can top the statement she made the following year!
A Decision To Go Makeup-Free
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This is Alicia Keys in 2016. Notice anything different? She has fully embraced the natural look with her curly hair and if you look a little closer, her face is completely free of makeup!
In 2016, Keys announced her decision to go makeup free, much to the shock of some people. Celebrities rarely go out in public without makeup and even those who sport a “natural look” have used some makeup to achieve it. But here, Keys is completely bare-faced and incredibly beautiful. Just look at how her smile radiates how free she probably felt upon making the decision.
More Beautiful Than Ever
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Keys’ decision to go completely makeup-free in 2016 was a very personal one. In a personal essay posted to Lenny Letter, Keys wrote that she came to realize that much of her work was about masking who she was and that they were rooted in insecurity.
Keys writes, “My desire to listen to myself, to tear down the walls I built over all those years, to be full of purpose, and to be myself! The universe was listening to those things I’d promised myself, or maybe I was just finally listening to the universe, but however it goes, that’s how this whole #nomakeup thing began.”
Embracing Her Natural Beauty
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In 2017, Alicia Keys performed at the historic first-ever Women’s March that year, fully embracing her natural beauty while inspiring women to do the same and stand up for what they believe in.
Keys ended her Lenny Letter essay with this powerful statement: “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
60th Grammy Awards
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Here is Alicia Keys on the red carpet at the 60th Grammy Awards in January 2018. While she might not always be makeup free 24/7, you can see that since her big revelation she has continued to embrace her natural beauty and many of us are still living for it!
Throughout the years you can clearly see how Alicia Keys’ style has adapted to how much of herself she dared to show the world. However, in this photo, you can tell that since embracing her natural beauty and natural self, Keys exudes a powerful confidence that she inspires other women to do as well.