Alicia Keys is known as an artist, performer, and activist first and foremost, but she's also made a handful of powerful beauty statements — down to her braided hairstyles. When she first stepped onto the music scene in 2001 after the launch of her first studio album, "Songs in A Minor," she wore braids at nearly every onstage or television appearance. While her choice in hairstyles has evolved in the years since — she's tried everything from sky-high ponytails to slicked-back buns to her natural curls — she often goes back to her signature braided looks the world came to know and love her by.
Of course, braids hold a deeper significance for the star and for the Black community at large. In an interview in a 2020 issue of Glamour UK Magazine, Keys opened up about how her protective style choices connect her to her roots and make her feel beautiful. "I've always felt royal when I wear braids," she told the publication. "There's something so beautiful about the Blackness of it, about my African ancestry that I just feel truly connected to."
Keys has never been shy about showing her true colours in the spotlight, from rejecting beauty standards through her refusal to don a full face of makeup 24/7 and going makeup-free back in 2016 to her impactful and empowering song lyrics. When Keys publicly announced she'd decided to ditch makeup in her viral Lenny Letter post, she expressed a deep desire to be her true self. "I don't want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing."
Over the years, Keys has graced countless stages, red carpets, and exclusive events, turning heads whenever she arrives — and honouring her Blackness at them all with her chosen hairstyles that have undoubtedly inspired Black women around the world who've struggled, or fought, to wear traditional protective styles. The artist's sense of freedom with her self-expression is evident in her personal style, especially in the wide range of exquisite braided hairstyles she's worn throughout the years. Keep reading to take a look at Keys's best braids from the early 2000s until now.