The Alicia Keys Secret Life of Bees Interview
Taking time out from her music to hone some skills as an actress, Alicia Keys radically shook up her image when she stepped into the role of a badass lesbian pretend hooker assassin giving Jeremy Piven's coke freak a hard time, in Smokin' Aces. And now, still really pissed about a couple of things, Alicia is one angry babe with sassy attitude in The Secret Life Of Bees.
The twenty-seven year old sultry songstress and multiple Grammy winner paused while preparing to shoot the music video and put together the title song for the latest James Bond movie, Quantum Of Solace, to let loose about slowing down and just spending more time with herself, Alicia's quest of self-discovery sexually and emotionally in her music, and the creature comfort of relating to bees and pit bulls lately, presumably with or without the lipstick.
How did you get hooked into The Secret Life Of Bees?
ALICIA KEYS: I was basically groveling and begging, so that they'd remember me! And then they said, hey Alicia, you want to do it? And I happened to already be booked for some mad tours and everything. But to me, this was really more important. And I really loved it, so I did it.
What stylistic and emotional directions are you going in now, with your music?
AK: I'm discovering my sexual side, and exploring relationships. You know, sensual stuff. And I'm discovering a lot of sides of myself, stuff I've buried. So the music is also therapeutic, to come to terms with things. And I feel now like my head is in the right space.
But you know, musicians used to be way more instrumental just in providing a soundtrack to what's going on in the world. And it's also important to state what we think. There's like this fear for their career, if they have anything intelligent to say about politics. And that's really messed up.
What made you realize that you needed to have a personal life too, and not just being to your work creatively?
AK: Yeah, there was definitely a personal change in my life. And it just really made me more aware. I guess that's when I decided I wasn't really ready to be so dedicated, as I was before.
When I started out, I was super young. And had just figuring everything out. And I was like, hey, let's just go all over the world and tour. This is amazing. And it has been.
But now I realize that I want something more. Success is great, but then you also wake up in your hotel room at four in the morning and you're like, wouldn't it be nice to have someone here with me.
Actually, I wouldn't mind being in one place for two months or so. It really doesn't sound so bad!
How do you feel about the media?
AK: I don't have that going on like when I go down to the store. So I can do what I want to do, lucky me. But when these people are coming at me and asking these things, they don't really care about me. And I have felt like there were all these people who just wanted to use me.
The Secret Life Of Bees is a movie about the strength of family. Do you ever see yourself having children one day?
AK: Yeah, I do. I definitely want a family.
What about marriage?
AK: I think that marriage is beautiful. And if it's a partnership with someone you love, then it really is beautiful. Yeah, I think that marriage does work.
You know, like it's not something that's only destined to fail. I don't believe that. And I think that it's okay to take your time making the decision to go for it.
How do you manage to stay so grounded? You're so down to earth.
AK: Well, thank you! I take that as a compliment. I think my mother is a big part of that. I was raised just by her. So I've lived a certain life, and understand certain things that I'll never forget.
AK: Like you just can't take a day for granted. We had to work really hard for anything, and so that's been instilled in me. And I don't look at myself as better than anybody else, because in an instant everything can change.
You know, you don't know what will happen from one minute to the next. So I hold onto that a lot. And I also realized at one point, that there's a place you have to reach, and that you kind of have to figure out.
Like, here's what I want from my life, and here's what I want from my career. And they can be happening at the same time, but you can always choose. You can choose.
What's it like doing the music video for the new James Bond movie, Quantum Of Solace?
AK: I saw the film, it's really good. Yeah, like I don't know how there's this incredible amount of stunts in one movie. It's amazing.
How do you feel about that sexy Bond man, Daniel Craig?
AK: I like him, I actually really like him.
Did you see Daniel in Casino Royale?
AK: I didn't see Casino Royale, so I couldn't judge. Don't tell anyone!
Well, how come your character June in The Secret Life Of Bees is so pissed at everybody?
AK: June is her own person, she's her own experience. And it does so happen that there was a lot to fight for. And there was a lot of struggle going on, a lot to stand for, and there was a lot to be angry about. So it kind of makes sense why people did have that kind of position.
But June is really, really special. And she is multi-layered. And that's the reason why I loved her so much, because we all are so multi-layered. But the movie is more about the growth of individuals as individuals, and that really attracted me a lot.
Are you anything like June?
AK: I related to a lot of June, actually. Especially her vulnerability covered by this kind of false strength. Not to say that she's not strong. She's very strong, but she uses that to cover any fear that she has, or any vulnerability that she has.
She's also the guard bee of the family. She's the one that kind of guards the family. The pit bull, June is! She's very much about protecting the family. There's a lot that she's dealing with.
And I find that as I learn myself, I'm learning that. You know, her determination, and her discipline.
What did you do to get into classical music, and playing the cello like June does, since that's not where your head is at musically?
AK: I played classical music, so I could understand where that discipline was coming from.
Do you know how to play the cello?
AK: I didn't, but I do now. I learned the cello for this, but I would still need a massive amount of practice. But I do play classical music, so I understand where that comes from.
And there's definitely the fear of marriage in her as well. There's almost like a stigma with marriage at this point in a lot of ways, to me. A lot of people, they've been saying to me, oh don't get married. It ruins everything. And I'm like, damn. So I can understand that about her.
People actually tell you that about marriage, even now?
AK: You hear that. So I can understand all those things about her. I'm not June, but I can definitely relate.
Did you always think you were going to be an actress?
AK: Yes. My mother is an actress, and I grew up in the theater. I grew up around theaters. My mother did off-Broadway. So I was always in that world, and I loved it.
You know, I acted before I sang. And I did The Cosby Show, and things like that. But the music kind of came first. And it was a part of my essence. So I knew that I would evolve into this world.
Are you thinking now about working on a new album?
AK: Damn it, yes. But I can only do one thing at a time!
Prairie Miller is a multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio. Contact her through NewsBlaze.
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