Alicia Keys keeps on falling in love. This time, it was with Brazil. Though she didn’t put it in a love song, she definitely wrote it in letter form: “I am in love with you. This fantastic magical place. It is so ALIVE here!” she wrote in an open letter to the country, published on her Web site.
On the night of her performance at Rock in Rio, it was clear that the feeling was mutual, as one hundred thousand fans poured their hearts out to the singer at Cidade do Rock. Her energy was particularly contagious because she made it a point, ever so gracefully, to give the show a genuine local vibe: She threw in a few perfect obrigadas and sang a duet with Brazilian artist Maria Gadú. For her final song, a showstopping rendition of “Empire State of the Mind,” she made a thirty-second costume change—not simply a deserved diva moment, but an opportunity to pay homage to São Paulo-born designer Sandro Barros. The black and gold vertical lines of the one-of-a-kind gown gently enveloped her curves, evoking true Old Hollywood glamour.
The aforementioned Sandro Barros dress and an excerpt of Alicia’s letter, pictured with husband Swizz Beats
Two weeks later, on a perfect autumn day in Manhattan, Alicia performed the same song at the Global Citizens Festival. Watching the sun set behind the concrete jungle that surrounds Central Park to that soundtrack felt surreal—and the sixty-five thousand people who had earned their ticket by raising awareness of world poverty sang along to every word, with their iPhones in the air in search of that perfect fifteen-second instavideo.
The singer, who has helped hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive children in Africa and India through her charity Keep a Child Alive, could not have been a better choice for the impressive lineup: Kings of Leon, John Mayer, an Elvis Costello surprise appearance, and Stevie Wonder (introduced onstage by Bono) were preceded by brief but powerful statements made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other great leaders in the global fight against poverty. Katie Holmes, Gerard Butler, and Olivia Wilde took turns onstage, following in the steps of veteran host Karolina Kurkova (below), who also hosted the event in 2012. The übermodel’s trademark hypnotic smile and genuine enthusiasm for Global Citizens’ work made her a true ambassador for the cause, and a very well dressed one: Her flirty geometric black and white Proenza Schouler skirt induced me to pay a visit to Saks Fifth Avenue first thing the next morning!
Photos: Courtesy of Rock in Rio, Sandro Barros, and Paula Bezerra de Mello