Visiting Dignitaries

Alicia Keys Shrugs off Scheduling Snafus to Talk About Her New Storybook App for Children

Alicia Keys: musician, app creator, former Hipstamatic user
 Alicia Keys Shrugs off Scheduling Snafus to Talk About Her New Storybook App for Children


Alicia Keys was having a pretty annoying Wednesday afternoon. Right before Betabeat was set to talk to Ms. Keys, she ran off to the bathroom, seemingly to escape  the incessant schedule changes a Flatiron PR firm kept throwing at her. The company had set up a series of interviews with the R&B songstress to promote her new iPad and iPhone app, The Journals of Mama Mae & LeeLee, but the junket wasn’t proceeding quite as planned.

The app is storybook adventure, filled with interactive narratives, piano playing and journal writing–fit for any kid with a little creative flair, or what we imagine Ms. Keys must have been like as a little girl.

After a short break, Ms. Keys returned, seeming genuinely thrilled about her new creation and the experience of developing a mobile app. She took special care to note how fun it was to work without boundaries. “That’s one of the reasons we chose to make this an app and not a TV show or a book,” she said. “I think that’s what people really love about the digital space. It’s just no rules to it. It’s amazing that we were able to create this whole universe and Mama Mae & LeeLee and really do it exactly how we envisioned it.”

The app came to fruition after Ms. Keys was recruited to help out by her “colleague and partner” DJ Walton and his wife Jessica Walton. The three of them teamed up with Bento Box Interactive, which created the app itself.

We asked if Egypt, Ms. Keys’s 2-year-old son with Swizz Beatz–an entrepreneur himself–would get his hands on the new app. She said that Egypt has an iPad of his very own, and that he loves it. “I love an iPad; I think it’s a really amazing tool. And it’s a great learning tool, too. Everything that we have on for him that he uses engages his mind to learn something,” she said, adding that there were “one or two Angry Birds on there,” as well.

Ms. Keys’s iPhone was sitting next to her on the couch, and she let us take a little peek around. She’s not a huge downloader, but she did have a folder dedicated to camera apps, which she expressed particular fondness for. “I love my photography apps,” she said. “I like this Vintage Cam one, Snapseed, Hipstamatic–” Her brows perked up when she noticed that one. “I was on that for a minute, but then I hopped off.” You and and everyone else!

After just a few short questions, we decided to leave Ms. Keys to the rest of her interviews. She looked mentally exhausted, but still pretty damn flawless, of course. When she realized we were ending the interview early, she grabbed our hands, said thank you repeatedly and told the PR people we were “the man.” With that bit of breathing room, Ms. Keys’s face perked up, kind of like a kid getting her hands on an iPad for the first time.