2001 The New Sensation: Signed as a teen by music legend Clive Davis, she wrote some of the songs on her multiplatinum debut album in a spiral notebook, in pencil. “I have grown,” says Keys, now 31, “but my heart is exactly the same.”
2001 Her first No. 1 hit: “Fallin'” topped the charts for six weeks; PEOPLE named the fedora-wearing singer one of the year’s breakthrough stars.
2002 Winning 5 Grammys: “I was like, ‘Wow, what am I doing here?'” says Keys. “I was probably on level 50,000 vibrating the whole night. I couldn’t believe it.”
2002 Cofounding the Keep a Child Alive charity: “I’ve found so much more purpose in life,” Keys says of establishing a charity to help children and families gain access to AIDS medicine.
2006 Her first trip to Egypt: Her three-week solo trek was “powerful,” says Keys, who sailed the Nile. “It’s why I named my son Egypt.”
2007 Making her movie debut in Smokin’ Aces: Called a “young Pam Grier” when it opened in 2006, Keys has since directed a short for Lifetime.
2009 Honoring Bill Clinton: “We felt super big league,” says Keys of feting the ex-Prez at her Black Ball benefit.
2009 Creating an anthem for her hometown: “Empire State of Mind” (with fellow native Jay-Z) was a rocking homage to N.Y.C.
2010 Her wedding: “It was one of the best days of my life-I met my equal,” she says of producer Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, 33.
The birth of her son: “I love to dress him!” Keys says of Egypt Daoud Dean, now 9 months. (Those are his velvet slippers.) “My life is a billion percent better because of him.”