What makes an icon? That’s the question posed by Harper’s Bazaar’s annual icon issue—also known as the highly anticipated September issue.
Following Serena Williams’ incredible, unretouched, indisputably iconic cover appearance in August, Bazaar is doubling down on black excellence, placing Alicia Keys on the cover of the September issue’s newsstand edition, which “is comprised of women and men that have shifted perceptions by resisting the established, avoiding the accepted and breaking every rule they can,” according to a release from the magazine.
“To me there is nothing more iconic than being singular...beyond being unique and talented, the 10 cultural forces in this year’s ICONS portfolio have expanded, redefined, or completely dispensed with accepted notions, expected behaviors, previous templates, and any rules about their crafts. Their attitude and confidence is an inspiration,” said Bazaar’s global fashion director Carine Roitfeld. Notably, Roitfeld also chose to feature Cardi B as the star of the second-largest issue of the year, the Spring Fashion issue.
While Keys typically flies lower on the radar than fellow icons like Beyoncé or Rihanna, the 15-time Grammy winner’s icon status has been widely acknowledged—she had the honor of hosting the Grammys this year, and will soon receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With new music on the horizon that will undoubtedly significantly add to her 30 million records already sold, Keys reflected on the inspiration behind an array of her most empowering hits, with a revelation some may find surprising:
“A majority of those songs—‘A Woman’s Worth,’ ‘Superwoman,’ and ‘Girl on Fire’—were written when I was not feeling worthy,” she admitted to Bazaar. “They were always songs that I needed to hear because I was going through a time when I was feeling down and needed to be reminded that this is who I am and this is what I deserve!”
Already a music industry veteran at 38, Keys wants more women in music to get the support and recognition they deserve, recently forming the nonprofit She Is the Music to join the fight for “equality, inclusivity and opportunity in music,” reads the organization’s site.
“I think women are held to higher standards because we are that much more important to the human race,” Keys told Bazaar. “Women are always going to have to navigate a more difficult space because we occupy so many different levels within it, and that’s how powerful we are.”
Keys, who tells the magazine that motherhood gave her a “stronger sense of clarity,” will be getting even more revealing about finding her own power in her upcoming memoir/anthology, titled More Myself (due in March 2020 on Oprah Winfrey’s imprint with Flatiron Books), saying, “I had to be transparent; otherwise there was no point in doing it.” Similarly, she tells the magazine her new album will also be a testament to her evolution.
“It reflects where I am today—the deeper acceptance I have of who I am as a full human being, the flaws, the pieces that I used to push aside because I wasn’t ready to embrace the anger or the fear or the crazy,” she said.
But Keys isn’t the only black icon in Bazaar’s September issue; its pages also feature producer, director, and Oscar-winning actress Regina King, who recently landed a first-look deal with Netflix and promised, while accepting her 2019 Golden Globe, to staff her productions with at least 50 percent women, encouraging other directors and producers to do the same.
Also a newly established icon, by Bazaar’s standards? The ridiculously talented, unapologetically individual Lakeith Stanfield, who has not only turned heads with his acting chops but with his personal style—not to mention his often hilarious online presence. And of course, we can’t wait to see him team with up with another icon-in-the-making, Issa Rae, in the upcoming romantic drama The Photograph.
Frankly, we’re here for all of this black iconic energy recognized by Harper’s Bazaar, and you can catch their stories and more—including Alek Wek, Aquafina, Celine Dion, Devon Aoki, Shailene Woodley, Kate Moss and Christy Turlington (who covers the subscriber’s issue), when the Icons issue hits stands on August 20.