Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher and other celebrities have joined a new campaign called Digital Life Sacrifice on behalf of Keys' charity, Keep a Child Alive. The entertainers plan to sign off of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, which is World AIDS Day. The participants will sign back on when the charity raises $1 million.
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"It's really important and super-cool to use mediums that we naturally are on," Keys said in a phone interview from New York last week.
For the campaign — which also includes Jennifer Hudson, Ryan Seacrest, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Elijah Wood, Serena Williams, Janelle Monae and Keys' husband, Swizz Beatz — celebrities have filmed "last tweet and testament" videos and will appear in ads showing them lying in coffins to represent what the campaign calls their digital deaths.
"It's so important to shock you to the point of waking up," Keys said. "It's not that people don't care or it's not that people don't want to do something, it's that they never thought of it quite like that." The campaign, she said, puts the disease in perspective.
"This is such a direct and instantly emotional way and a little sarcastic, you know, of a way to get people to pay attention," Keys said.
The foundation, which began in 2003, will accept donations through text messages and bar-code technology, which is featured in the charity's Buy Life campaign. Raised efforts support families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.
"We're trying to sort of make the remark: Why do we care so much about the death of one celebrity as opposed to millions and millions of people dying in the place that we're all from?" said Leigh Blake, the president and co-founder of Keep a Child Alive.
"It's about love and respect and human dignity," she added.
Keys said recruiting celebrities was difficult because of scheduling, but "once I got people on the phone and I was able to paint the concept for them, everybody was in."
Not one person said no, Keys recalled.
"I have a feeling that Gaga is going to raise it all by herself," Blake said. "She's got a very, very mobilized fan base and that's beautiful to watch I think (and) she's able to draw their attention to these issues that are very important, you know, and that people follow it and act."
Keys is hoping more people — both famous folks and non-celebs — get involved once the new initiative launches: "It just doesn't have to be just because you're a celebrity or something like that. It can be anybody."
Keys, 29, married rapper-producer Swizz Beatz in July. The two had their first son, Egypt, last month. The Grammy winner said that though her life's getting busier, being a mother and wife makes her want to help others even more.
"As a human being, you deserve to have a chance at life," she said.