Power of Women honoree Alicia Keys addressed Grammy president Neil Portnow’s controversial “step up” comment and deemed women “agents of change” for their impact on current global movements during Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon Friday.
Keys called the event a “room full of power” as she took the stage. She first thanked Robin Roberts, who introduced her. “You’ve always been so generous to me and such a champion for my individuality, and I thank you deeply for your love and your sisterhood so thank you,” Keys said.
“I am elated to receive this honor, especially from you and especially this year because we should always highlight, celebrate, and honor the power of women because look at us!” Keys exclaimed to the room as the audience applauded.
Key said women are “more on fire than we’ve ever been” and pointed out the action women have been taking such as running for office in record numbers and the Time’s Up movement to help not only women in the entertainment industry, but also domestic and farm workers. She then took a moment to respond to Portnow’s comment that women need to “step up” to get ahead in the music industry. “We were told we need to step up. Well, you feel that step up now?” Keys said.
Keys also spoke about the fight for salary equity, mentioning Claire Foy not receiving equal pay for her lead role on “The Crown.” “The queens are going to get their paper,” Keys said.
Keys said all the change is happening because women, like fellow Power of Women honoree Tarana Burke, are “fearlessly sharing their stories.”
She gave credit to the men who are also assisting in cultural change, specifically pointing out her former manager Jeff Robinson who she said “treated me like an equal” during negotiations when Keys was 14.
Keys called her mother, who raised her as a single parent, a “true woman of power.” “I don’t feel like I missed anything,” Keys said. “In fact, I gained more because I witnessed her power and her fortitude firsthand. So she taught me about feminism just by being who she is.”
Keys named Anita Hill, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Stephon Clark as other “agents of change” before mentioning her charity she co-launched, Keep a Child Alive.
“True change agents don’t always have money,” Keys said. “They don’t always have resources, but they are warriors.”