Celebrity Alicia Keys: How I Learned to Love Myself In a revealing blog post, the star opens up about how she battled self-esteem issues for years By Jeff Nelson Jeff Nelson Instagram Twitter Jeff Nelson is the Senior News Editor, Entertainment at PEOPLE. For nearly a decade, he has worked across the brand's entertainment verticals, reporting on breaking news and writing and editing across platforms, as well as securing A-list cover exclusives, including Barry Manilow's coming out and an at-home interview with Madonna. Jeff has appeared as an expert on Good Morning America, Extra, HLN and SiriusXM, as well as at RuPaul's DragCon as a moderator. He studied magazine journalism at Drake University, graduating with a B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communication. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on December 2, 2020 12:17 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty She’s released five albums and nabbed a whopping 15 Grammys in her nearly 20-year career, but Alicia Keys is revealing that even she has dealt with self-esteem issues. In a blog post for her website shared exclusively with PEOPLE, the singer, 34, says she had an epiphany recently: “I became comfortable hiding, my intelligence, my physical appearance, my truths, my thoughts, myself … And just the other day it hit me! OMG! Alicia!!! Why are you choosing to be that person?? That is so old and outdated!! STOP!!” Keys – who’s married to Swizz Beatz, with whom she has sons Egypt, 4½, and Genesis, 7 months – also touts that live-for-today sentiment in her latest single, “28 Thousand Days.” Read Keys’ full essay below: 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. 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 make up, no bright color lipstick or pretty dresses. I chose to hide. Pieces at a time. Less trouble that way. 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 than ever of what the real me was. I remember one interview I gave had strong social thoughts from a book I just read. The writer misunderstood me and wrote something that I didn’t say. I felt judged by those reading it. Out came the shell again and me under it. Hiding, piece by piece. Little by little. More and more. I became comfortable hiding, my intelligence, my physical appearance, my truths, my thoughts, myself. To this day, every time I get out of the shower to get dressed, I swear the first thought that comes into my head is, what can I wear that won’t cause too much attention when I go pick up Egy, or head to the store, or go shopping, or visit a friend etc. And just the other day it hit me! OMG! Alicia!!! Why are you choosing to be that person?? That is so old and outdated!! STOP!! You are allowed to be smartYou are allowed to be beautifulYou are allowed to be radical and have strong thoughts that others might not agree withYou are allowed to be toughYou are allowed to be sexyYou are allowed to be boldYou are allowed to be shapelyYou are allowed to be kindYou are allowed to be yourself!! And guess what!?? I can be all these things all at the same time. I don’t have to give up one to be the other. I don’t have to hide anymore, I don’t have to pretend and hold back, I don’t have to think that my intelligence, beauty and sensuality are intimidating to others. Who cares??!!! I don’t have to think my silliness, clumsiness, or Hallmark card optimism, is something I can’t be proud of! Who cares????!!!! I don’t have to try to go unnoticedI don’t have to fit inI don’t have to close up my thoughts and only speak my truth through songs! I can speak it everydayLive it everydayBe it everydayDress it everydayShow it everydayGrow it everyday!!! I only got 28,000 of those days. So what the F– am I waiting for?? And dammit that’s what I’m doing!!!!