Thank you, Alicia Keys.
Four months ago, Keys announced she was done wearing makeup. But things really heated up in late August, when the singer stepped out on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards with bare skin, bare lips, and bare lashes. She still looked as gorgeous as ever. But many people — men and women alike — lashed out.
While some praised Keys for daring to show under-eye circles and dark spots in the age of Kardashian contouring, others thought she should have put more effort into getting ready for a big event. Some didn't believe she actually wasn't wearing any makeup. Others criticized Keys for being out of touch with the reality faced by average women who might not have her flawless complexion, the star power to back up the unconventional choice, or the stunning good looks to wow without any cosmetic assistance.
But I, for one, really admire what Keys has done.
I still get pimples. My allergies result in seemingly permanent bags under my eyes. Every morning and every night, I go through a laborious multi-step skincare process in the hopes of achieving that glowing, even-toned skin Keys regularly shows off. In the last month alone, I've spent over $100 on skincare products and makeup, ranging from serums and facewash to highlighters, cream blush, and mascara. I feel pretty when I put it all on. But whether I'm doing this for myself, or for others, I can't honestly say. What I can say is that if I adopted the skincare routine my boyfriend has — splashing his face with water in the shower — I'd have a lot more time and money.
What's important to note about Keys' decision is that she insists it isn't "anti-makeup." Many women feel empowered by applying a swipe of red lipstick, and many just enjoy the art of trying on a different look. Keys might inspire you to stop wearing makeup, or she might not. But what her decision definitely does is make people think about why in the world makeup matters so much in the first place.
By baring her bare face, Keys has revealed how makeup can become a crutch and a mask. The very fact that women are so encouraged to apply makeup communicates that we should be concealing our imperfections and that our human, flawed selves just isn't what the world wants to see. All the negative reactions to Keys' bare face showed people are more comfortable seeing a celebrity doused in layers of foundation and eyeliner than one who looks, well, human.
Keys wrote in an essay on Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter published in May that before she gave up cosmetics, she had gotten to the point where she was nervous to go out in public without makeup:
Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup: What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it??? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me. [Lenny Letter]
But the moment she hesitantly allowed a photographer to take this picture of her completely barefaced, Keys wrote she felt "the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful" she'd ever felt:
— Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) May 4, 2016
Therein lies the true badass-ness of Keys' decision to stop wearing makeup: With that choice, she put her opinions about her appearance above other people's. Sure, some of her fans may have preferred the made-up look she used to rock, but Keys realized she preferred how she looked without anything on, and she went with it.
Alicia Keys isn't pushing women to stop wearing makeup; she's pushing women to do whatever makes them feel strong, beautiful, and true. Wear makeup or don't — but realize the choice is yours to make.