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Alicia Keys Candidly Reveals Why Motherhood Requires You to 'Really Look at Yourself'

Darlene Aderoju

Alicia Keys brings honesty to every aspect of her life — and that includes motherhood.

The singer-songwriter, who is hosting the Grammys in 2020 for the second year in a row, opened up to PEOPLE at the 2019 American Express and Billboard Women in Music Impact Brunch in Los Angeles about how being a mom has influenced her.

“Motherhood, I find, makes you look at yourself in a way that is a mirror like no other that you’ve been presented with before,” Keys, told PEOPLE before heading on stage to speak during the American Express Fireside Chat on Thursday.

The singer, who is this year’s American Express Impact Award honoree, and her husband, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, are parents to their sons Egypt, 9, and Genesis, 4½. The couple also co-parent with the producer’s ex-wife Mashonda Tifrere, with whom he has son Kasseem, 13.

Alicia Keys | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

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“I think it makes you look at what you have taken or learned from other people and how that becomes your truth, whether it’s yours or not,” she added.

“So, I’m often thinking about that and often thinking about how to unravel that. Especially when it’s not my truth, but something that I’ve realized is that [when it comes to] learned behavior, I don’t want to give those things or pass those forward. Some of those things need to be let go.”

“I think [motherhood] is equally as challenging as it is rewarding and I think that’s part of the reward,” she continued. “You have to really look at yourself.”

On the most fulfilling parts of being a mom, Keys said she appreciates the little things. “The most rewarding part is everything,” she told PEOPLE. “Seeing them be safe, seeing them be strong-minded. Seeing them have their own thoughts and opinions.”

“Seeing them being empathetic and having these character traits that you’re hoping that you’re sharing with them and they’re receiving.”

Alicia Keys and her family | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Keys — who is the first female musical artist to host the Grammys twice and now leads her She Is the Music initiative working to increase the number of women working in the industry — has made a remarkable impact on women in music.

That’s why the 15-time Grammy-winner was honored with the Billboard Women in Music award. For the “Fallin'” singer, winning the award feels incredible: “I feel super blessed and really excited.”

“We were here just one year ago to launch She Is the Music and there’s been so much powerful and genuine, forward progression and movement with it,” she recalled. “So honestly, I feel that when they’ve given me this Impact Award, it’s really for all of us that work on She Is the Music.”

“It’s for all of the ways that we are powerful women creating opportunity for each other and just supporting and uplifting each other,” she added. “I feel like it’s almost a collective reward in so many ways.”

The songstress, who will also soon be releasing her self-titled album, A.L.I.C.I.A., said the entertainment industry “is a very powerful space we’re in right now and I’m f—king with it.”

As Keys spoke on stage on Thursday, the singer expressed the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Alicia Keys | Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Billboard

“Even just on the Corden Show that I hosted on Monday, we brought in women from the She Is the Music database to shadow the stage manager, the associate music producer, the head writers,” she recalled.

“Women get it done,” she added — to which the crowd cheered.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Keys spent time working with female artists during a Songwriters Camp facilitated by American Express and Billboard, in partnership with She Is The Music. The two-day camp was held at Record Plant, a recording studio in Los Angeles.

“Since we first launched, we’ve done 12 Songwriters Camps so far with different artists at the helm like Bebe Rexha, Mary J. Blige, myself, and more,” Keys said. “Last night’s was really, really good.”

Talking more on diversity, the award-winner said: “One of the women at the Songwriters Camp yesterday was saying that hopefully we one day won’t have to say, ‘Let’s create a women’s writing camp because we have to make sure women are at the table.”

“Hopefully we’re not saying, ‘How do we make the boardroom at least 50 percent female?’ Hopefully we get to a place where we’re not actually having to consciously think of these things because it’s just happening and just part of how we operate. That’s what the challenge is, making it a conscious effort that then just is and is not so unusual that we’re like, ‘Wow, there’s two women on the board and one of them is black.’ It’s like a bunch of bulls— so it’s time to really just evolve.”

Alicia Keys and her son Egypt | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

With so many big things happening for her now and in the coming months, the singer told PEOPLE she’s planning to keep the holiday celebrations low-key.

“I love to just chill at home,” she tells PEOPLE. “I think that’s kinda what the holidays are about in a lot of ways, just having it become more quiet.”

“I personally love the comfort of just being with your friends and family and safe at home,” she adds. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”