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Alicia Keys Talks Designing for Reebok and Performing With Gabby Douglas

Earlier this month, singer Alicia Keys launched a limited-edition collection of streetwise sneakers with Reebok Classics. In addition to reworking the brand's signature Freestyle Hi (aka the 5411) by printing them with the Manhattan skyline and some graphic piano keys, Keys also put her own hip-hop spin on the Freestyle Hi Dubble Bubble. (Via gold and silver studs.) Finally, she made over the Classic Nylon Slim in punchy purple and yellow. 

The performer then took to the streets of her native New York to film the collab's campaign video, which you can check out below.

Yesterday, we had the chance to sit down with the 14-time Grammy winner (!) to discuss her latest partnership, a gig that brings her lifetime obsession with the 5411 full circle. Read on to find out why she's so in love with sneakers, how she suggests styling them and how her other recent collab—with Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas—came about.

Lucky: I hear you've been a Reebok fan since you were a little girl. How did that inform this collaboration?

Alicia Keys: Since I was young, Reebok's always been one of my favorite sneakers—my favorite style being the 5411. That's the one I always wore. I think it was because one, it was affordable, and two, it always had different styles and flavors and colors. Even growing up, I would always be like, "Man—I wish I could make my own! What if I could put this color with that color?" I've always had that fantasy. And then in one of my videos, I actually spray-painted a pair of 5411s to make them the color I wanted. And I was like, "I should bring back the 5411." And this was in about 2004. So when the opportunity finally did come, I was so excited. I'm a sneaker girl, I'm a bit of a tomboy at heart...so it was just really fun to be able to do it. And I always felt like boys got the best sneakers...

Yeah, it's great that you're offering something cool for the ladies.

That's exactly what I set out to do.

How did you go about choosing the styles, colors and embellishments for your Reebok designs?

It was very collaborative, actually. We started out by having these long, in-depth conversations about my style and about who I am. [Reebok's team] did a lot of research, just about my favorite colors and this whole "tomboy chic" thing that I love.

I love that style description. What exactly does it mean to you?

To me, it means the lines are feminine, but the energy is maybe a little more masculine. So like, this is a motorcycle jacket [gestures to the one she's wearing], but the fit is sexy and still tough.

How would you suggest styling your sneakers so they don't look too...sporty?

If I were to do a skirt with sneakers, it'd definitely have to be on the shorter side. A little more...fun, you know what I mean? I love jeans with sneakers, though—for me, that's what feels good. I mean, if I'm a sneaker fanatic then I'm a jean...I-don't-know-what!

Obsessee?

Seriously! I love skinny jeans with sneakers. Especially high-tops.

I loved your "Girl on Fire" performance at the VMAs—and the fact that you brought Gabby Douglas onstage to do backflips while you sang! What was that like? Had you guys met before?

Thank you! Well, it just fit perfectly with the song. We hadn't met before, although I really wanted to. But we met the day before the show, and I just instantly wanted to pick her up and hug her and give her lots of love. She's super-adorable, and a true example of when you put the time in, you can get a lot out of it. Her family's great too—I had a chance to meet her mother, actually.

Finally, any hints about what we can expect from your new album?

I'm so proud of it. I believe it's the best music I've written yet. I think there's something that'll connect everyone when they hear it. It's shocked me, how much those songs have brought out in people. I think you'll be in store for something fresh and new, but that still feels like it's rooted in what I've done before. Like an evolution.

To shop the Alicia Keys x Reebok collection, head over to Reebok.com. Alicia's new album Girl on Fire hits stores on November 27.

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