"I think it's beautiful when a woman is comfortable not being the norm," said in the new issue of Glamour

By Jeff Nelson
January 31, 2017 08:00 AM
Credit: Carter Smith/Glamour

There’s “No One” quite like Alicia Keys.

In the new issue of Glamour, the R&B star opens up about her singular style and her journey to self-love — and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the story, available online and in the March issue of the women’s glossy.

“I think it’s beautiful when a woman is comfortable not being the norm,” the Grammy winner, 36, said.

Below, the most insightful and inspiring revelations from the interview, on everything from female empowerment to her life as a mother.

She’s even more comfortable in her skin after nearly a year of going makeup-free.

About a year ago, Keys decided to forgo mainstream beauty standards and bare a fresh face, and she has no regrets.

“I guess I’ve come to terms that life is going to be a constant peeling back of layers, a constant unlearning of what we’ve been taught or believe to be true,” she told the magazine. “I think that I’ve come to terms with the fact that that’s just going to happen for the whole duration of my life. I feel really good about being able to look myself in the face and say, ‘Oh, who are you now?’ And that might change.”

Credit: Carter Smith/Glamour

Keys thinks of her hair as an empowering — revolutionary, even — feature.

Since she came to fame in 2001 with her breakthrough album Songs in A Minor, Keys’ most recognizable hairstyle have been has braids — and their power isn’t lost on her.

“I didn’t think wearing braids was something revolutionary or iconic; that was just how I loved wearing my hair,” she told the magazine. “I recognize now that how you look is your statement, because it’s a claiming of yourself. You’re saying, ‘Look, world. This is me. Love me or hate me, I really don’t care.’ I guess that is the revolution. I think what happens in the world, and I think it’s part human nature and part programming, is we become an emulation of what we see. We become clones of each other. And to break free from that and say, ‘Wait, I’m deciding to be my own individual self. And it looks nothing like what anyone else is doing.’ There’s something so powerful about being my own gorgeous, beautiful, individual, unique self.”

We Tried It: A Day of Alicia Keys’ No Makeup Beauty Routine

Credit: Carter Smith/Glamour

Motherhood has made her feel more complete.

Keys and husband Swizz Beatz have two sons, 2-year-old Genesis Ali and Egypt Daoud, 6. And the singer says her life has become more complete since she welcomed her children.

“I love being a mom. And I think what I love the most is the way it makes me think about what’s important and what’s not important. What to fight for and what to just be cool with,” she said. “What it is that I’m teaching through example and what it is that I was taught that I don’t want to teach. You can be very fulfilled as a mother, but that can’t be the only way you are fulfilled. What about being a woman? What about being yourself? Your awareness of what’s happening in the world? It lives altogether in a way that makes a whole. I guess I’d say I’m the wholest I’ve ever been.”

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She doesn’t buy the cliché that “women are catty.”

Rather than pitting women against each other, Keys believes females need to band together and empower one another.

“There is this fallacy about how women are catty, that we’re all in competition with each other. I’d say: As opposed to getting swept up in jealousy, use that pang to give you an indication of what you are looking for,” she said.

As for an example of a woman who’s walking the talk, she cites digital influencer Lilly Singh as an inspiration.

“Actually, there is this awesome performer Lilly Singh [IISuperwomanII on YouTube], who always does this thing: ‘Shout out another girl and tell her what you love about her,'” Keys said. “Even doing that is such a good practice. I don’t know if we tell women great news about themselves enough. You’d be surprised how often a young woman doesn’t hear positive things about herself—not in her home, not at school. It’s hard to create a beautiful image for yourself when you’ve never seen it or heard it.”

Read the rest of Keys’ article here, then tell us: Do you agree that beauty is empowering?