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Meeting Alicia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      It was a sunny November day and I was glad not to be in school. I much preferred sitting on a New York City-bound train, Alicia Keys' music playing on my iPod. Her smooth, soulful voice sang over the sounds of the train as I counted down the hours until I would hear that voice in person.

I would be interviewing Alicia Keys backstage at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where the décor was far from glamorous. I sat on a blue couch with Darina, my co-interviewer, and together we waited. From the stage, we could hear musicians practicing for that evening's performance.

“I think she's coming,” said Mr. Meyer, publisher and founder of Teen Ink. We all held our breath and sat perfectly still. My heart started pounding and I shifted nervously.

When Alicia Keys entered, the dim room immediately became brighter. Perfect hair, perfect skin - we all agreed she was “certifiably pretty,” but her warmth and sincerity were also apparent from the second I met her, and that made her beautiful.

Her casual confidence put me at ease and all the nervousness I'd felt vanished. By being herself, she gave me permission to do the same.

We were told that we wouldn't have much time because she had to rehearse, but Alicia seemed oblivious to the rush. She listened intently, gave insightful answers, happily posed for photos, and signed our books and CDs. Her enthusiasm and friendliness, and our collective love of writing, made the interview one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Just as memorable was the benefit performance we attended that night. The performance raised money for Keep A Child Alive, a charity that helps children with AIDS in Africa.

All in all, it was not my typical Thursday evening. First, we enjoyed a red-carpet event and reception. It was fun to be dressed up in New York City and served hors d'oeuvres by gorgeous cocktail waiters. We even asked one if it was required of cocktail waiters to be ridiculously good-looking - he said it was.

The Hammerstein Ballroom was crowded with Manhattanites, fake laughter, beautiful attire and strong perfume. It was fun searching for famous faces, and though I enjoyed the beautiful affair, it seemed a contradiction to the cause to which Alicia has dedicated herself. Twelve million AIDS orphans live in Africa and many do not receive anti-viral treatment. In the past 25 years, AIDS has killed 25 million people.

During the performance, Mum Carol was honored for her astonishing work in Africa and she shared an African proverb with us: “We are only people because of other people.” Those whose lives have been affected by AIDS need help. As people, regardless of race, age, financial status or nationality, we must help. For more information you can log onto the website www.keepachildalive.org to raise or donate money.

When Alicia sang, I realized that she is just as captivating, open and engaging performing in a crowded ballroom as she is sitting across from you. Alicia is a motivated individual who understands the needs of others and her own responsibility to inspire and help. There are few in the media more worthy of admiration and praise.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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