In addition to being one of the most successful and inspirational R&B singers in modern history–selling over 65 million albums and singles worldwide and earning 15 Grammy awards–Keys has become one of the world’s greatest philanthropists. In nearly 15 years, she has dedicated her money and time to global initiatives geared toward AIDS awareness, reducing global poverty, and relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, among others.
Her most recent song “We Are Here” even attempts to spark dialogue around the world about global issues, finding our purpose and channeling it to foster positive change.
And as if giving the world inspirational music and serving her community isn’t enough,
Keys, 33, at least from the surface, appears to be a great, loving wife and mother.
So why does it seem that Black women are totally unmoved by Keys and what she represents?
While there is no study or empirical research that proves that all or even a majority dislike Keys per say, careful attention to public opinion, particularly on comment sections on blogs and even news sites like CentricTV.com, will tell you that some women of color hold a level of distaste for the “Girl on Fire” songstress.
It’s no secret that much of the negative comments aimed at Keys centers around a longstanding belief that she “stole” her current husband, producer Swizz Beatz, from his ex-wife, singer Mashonda. Who can forget the very public letter Mashonda wrote about Keys in 2009, accusing Keys and her ex-husband of carrying on an affair?
“You know the role you played and you know how you contributed to the ending of my marriage,” Mashonda tweeted. “You know that I asked you to step back and let me handle my family issues. Issues that you helped to create.”
Though Keys and Swizz have been married now for four years and are expecting their second child, some Black women continue to hold the “homewrecker” label over her head. But why?
From a more critical and analytical lens, it could be argued that colorism plays a significant role in how Black women perceive and engage Keys. It may not be a coincidence that Keys is a biracial, fair-skinned woman raised by a white mother, who just so happened to “steal” the husband of a woman who, for all intents and purposes, is more visibly Black from her skin tone to hair texture.
It’s not a farfetched analysis considering Fantasia, too, was involved with a married man. She was even brought to court by the man’s wife, who sued the singer for “alienation of affection.” Though she was initially dragged through the mud, Fantasia seems to have earned her forgiveness, if you will, from Black women. They love her.
Maybe it’s that more Black women feel they can better identify with Fantasia; her dark skin, beautiful full lips, her very candid life struggles, her southern roots, and being reared in the Black church. Even her artistic style is a throwback to Black musical icons like Patti LaBelleand Aretha Franklin.
Maybe Black women have become aloof to Keys’ more worldly approach. Maybe her very private career has rendered her unrelatable. But it’s hard to shake the fact that two very different Black women (in terms of physical appearance) who seemingly committed the same offense garnered very different outcomes.
If you’re going to prosecute one famous singer for adultery, it would only be fair to do it across the board. But like most opinions, nothing is fair and all is subjective.
Black women are free to hate on Keys for starting a relationship with a married man, but if Mashonda, who’s since been spotted vacationing with her ex-husband, Keys and their blended family, can forgive her, why can’t everyone else?
It’s time (some) women of color stop throwing darts at Keys and start acknowledging that if anything she is a powerful representation of Black women in music and in the world. That’s not to excuse any misdeeds she may have committed. But to continuously ridicule her for something many other women have probably done in their lifetime–not to mention something that really shouldn’t concern them–isn’t fair at all.
However she got her husband, Keys is happily married now and should not have to answer to anyone about it. She’s talented and, more importantly, she appears very happy.
You know what they say about casting stones…