Alicia Keys opens up about her image, life in the public eye, new work in film


(CBS News) Alicia Keys is a 14-time Grammy winner, a movie actress, Broadway producer, and she started a family. Now, she's taking on yet another role: executive producer for the new film, "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," starring Jennifer Hudson.

Recently, "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King sat down with Keys in her New York City studio, to talk about the movie, her family, and what keeps this girl on fire.

King: So we went digging in the archives...

Keys: Oh, my gosh! (Track of Keys singing "Falling")

King: So when you look at that, when you look at that girl, what do you think? All those years ago.

Keys: Can I see her for a sec?

King: She's cute!

Keys: She is cute!

King: She's cute!

Keys: She's got little braids and her little like half shade glasses things. I'm not quite sure what those were.

King: But I remember the braids, I remember the combat boots, I remember the leather, the camouflage jacket.

Keys: It was only leather jackets and like, it was only... in fact, I worked with my first stylist.

King: A stylist did this?

Keys: No.

King: Oh, ok. (laughs)

Keys also discussed jamming with her son, Egypt.

Keys: Hey! What you trying to say? (laughing) That was stylist epitomized! What do you mean?! (laughs)

King: No, but when you first came on, it was a very different look! So when you look at her today, what do you think about her?

Keys: It really makes me smile. It makes me feel really, really good, because it's been such an incredible journey ... and I'm so much that same girl! You know, but with so much better clothes. (laughs)

King: I like the fact that you cut your hair so drastically, for so many women ... because you've got gorgeous beautiful hair, you wore it long for such a long time, and it's such a chic haircut, but so many women would be afraid to do that. Was it a big decision for you to cut your hair?

Keys: I knew for years that I wanted to do it, but what to do exactly was kind of the question, and when I realized what I wanted to do, I just did it.

King: Were you surprised when you looked in the mirror? Did you like it when you first saw it or did it have to grow on you?

Keys: I really liked it. And at the time, and now in my life, I'm really about kind of shedding old things that it's time to let go of, and that's been a lot about what this whole "Girl on Fire" album is really representing for me. And so at the time that I cut it, I needed to let go of all of those years of energy, of anything that ever held me back, or anyone that I needed to let go of. And it felt like a reinvigorated empowered me.

Keys also discussed her charity and what it means to cross the 10-year threshold.

King: You don't seem to have a lot of paparazzi drama with people tracking you down, or being in your face. And you and Egypt and your husband Swizz ... Swizz Beatz ... move around fairly openly.

Keys: We do.

King: And you don't seem to have a lot of all of the stuff that comes. How are you guys able to do that?

Keys:We're very grounded and we really like being in and of the people in a very real way. So we're not really going to the "SPOTS" ... and you know, now let's go to the "SPOT" ... ok, you dressed up, you look nice, because now we're going to the "SPOT" it's kinda like...(laughter)

King: And this is sort of our spot where we are. This is our spot.

Keys: This is our spot right here!

King: You know I was reading an interview that you did in a British publication where you talked about Mr. Dean, I'll call him for this interview (Alicia laughs) ... that he was ostentatious and annoying. I'm thinking, who is she talking about? And that you were totally turned off by him in the beginning. Were you?

Keys: Yes! I was like ... so annoyed by him. (laughs)

King: Because?

Keys: Well I guess, maybe at the time, being a little more philosophical about it all in retrospect.

King: Uh huh.

Keys: Maybe at the time, he was what I wished I could be maybe. Maybe at the time he was so bright and brilliant and able to be completely owning his own space with no apologies. I think I wished I could be like that. So now I think that's what annoyed me about it.

King: I'm so fascinated with you Alicia Keys ... because you don't have enough to do? Ok ... singer, songwriter, activist, Broadway producer, and now you say, you know what? Now I have some free time, let me produce a movie.

Keys: You know, I really am loving producing films, television, and stage.

King: Because?

Keys: Because I love being able to tell stories that wouldn't be told.

King: I have a confession. When they told me the premise of the movie, I thought, 'OK, black kid, his mother's a druggy, it's going to be so predictable.' I said, 'I gotta watch it because it's Alicia's movie.' So I went in -- and I have to say I'm embarrassed to tell you this -- feeling very biased about it, but I'm telling you, it was over and I felt totally different. It's not predictable, it's not cliche, and it's really good. Why is it different for you?

Keys: I was drawn in instantly just by reading the piece and I was attached to each character and I felt their pain, and I felt their triumph.

King: You know what else is interesting about Mister and Pete, one is black and one is Asian. So instantly, that caught my eye. I was like, hmm, this is different.

Also, ever wondered how Keys got her name? Check out an extra from her interview with King in which she discusses how she found her name.

Keys: I loved that. The fact that it's a global story - it's a HUMAN story. So no matter the location of where we are, where we live, whatever the case, it's a story about two boys bonding together to make it through a very tough time. And somehow, it ends up being hilarious. Sometimes you're ... somehow you're laughing with them. And you're rooting for them.

King: You know, as I was watching it, I said, you gotta have an Alicia Keys song in here. So, I'm not gonna do you justice but, I love the closing track, "Better Me, Better You." (singing) 'I know I'm gonna make it ... I've come too far to lose it ... gotta stay focused.' Are your ears burning?

Keys: No ... it sounds very beautiful.

King: 'Find a better me, better you.'

Keys: Yeah, yeah.

King: What did you want that song to say? It's a beautiful song at the end.

Keys: That song, it speaks to all of the troubles that you have, and all the feelings that you realize when you're looking everywhere, but inside of yourself for everything that you need.

Keys: I do love it. Do you want me to do a couple bars for you?

King: Yes, I do actually.

Keys: it might be too loud for your...

King: It won't be too loud, I promise.

Keys: It won't be too loud for you, but it might be too loud for this microphone so beware, whoever's on.

King: CBS can handle it. Go ahead Alicia Keys.

(Alicia sings)

King: (claps) Bravo! I think you have a future.