Born Alicia Augello Cook, the singer-songwriter, better known by her stage name Alicia Keys, began her career in entertainment with an appearance on 'The Cosby Show' at the tender age of four. But it wasn't until 2001 that she stormed onto the music scene with her debut album 'Songs in A Minor'. Since then, the three octave singer has picked up nine Grammy awards, and even written soundtracks for the seminal 'The Wire' and Bond's 'Quantum of Solace.'
Only child Keys was raised by her single mother, Nikki Augello, a part-time actress and para-legal in the area of New York City called Hell’s Kitchen. Keys began piano lessons at age 7 and Augello's dogged insistence that her daughter stick with the instrument led Keys to attend Manhattan's prestigious Professional Performance Arts School where she majored in choir. She excelled academically and was allowed to graduate at the age of 16.
Keys had already attracted the attention of record company executives during her high school years and, after what amounted to a bidding war for her talents, she signed with Arista Records in 1998.
While she was accepted to Columbia University on a full scholarship, she only attended for four weeks before leaving to dedicate herself fully to music.
In 1999, Clive Davis, the head of Arista Records, left the company to start J Records. Keys decided to follow Davis, who had engineered the careers of such soul luminaries as Aretha Franklin, to his new label. Unlike many of her pop-music contemporaries, the precocious Keys not only sings, but writes and produces her own music. At J Records, Keys found the freedom to complete her debut effort, which included material she had started work on years prior.
Davis carefully orchestrated a media blitz before the release of the album, including a series of television and small venue appearances. When it was finally released, ‘Songs in A Minor’ went platinum five times over. Critics roundly praised the album not only for its musical polish, but also for its lyrical maturity.
At the 2002 Grammy Awards, Keys took home awards for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist.
Her album 'Diary' won her four Grammys in 2005. It sold in excess of 618,000 copies in its first week, a record at the time, and it went on to sell eight million copies worldwide, which made it the second biggest selling album by an R&B artist.
She then released 'As I Am' with the first single from it, 'No One', doing brisk business stateside. The album was a success and was certified Platinum three times by the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 2007, Keys made her debut film appearance as an assassin named Georgia Sykes in the crime thriller Smokin' Aces. The singer used the intense training she had to undergo for the film as a platform to train to run a marathon. She later described the feat as the 'weirdest sensation'.
Her fourth album, The Element of Freedom, was released in 2009 and was the first of Key's records to hit the number one spot in the UK Albums Chart.
Keys met her future husband, record producer Swizz Beatz, when the pair wrote and produced Million Dollar Bill for Whitney Houston's album, I Look to You. In May 2010, the couple confirmed they were engaged and were expecting a child together. Egypt Daoud Dean was born on October 14, 2010 in New York. Their second child, a son named Genesis Ali Dean, was born in 2014.