Alicia Keys’ No Makeup Movement: What It Means For The Rest Of Us

by C. Shardae Jobson

In the category or hashtags for Beauty & Style in social media, we remain clicks away from the vortex of Instagram-inspired makeup selfies. (In) there you’ll observe heavy foundation, eyebrows penciled-in like curved Legos, and overlined lips. But per contra to these trends, piano talent Alicia Keys has publicly chosen to absolutely forgo wearing makeup. AKA participate in the #nomakeup movement/challenge.

Keys is certainly not the first celeb or modern day woman to face the world without a stitch or extremely light makeup. Aerie, the undergarment line of American Eagle Outfitters, prints unairbrushed photos of their models. One of GLAMOUR magazine’s covers this summer had Mila Kunis pose in denim on denim and bare-faced. And unremittingly cool Tilda Swinton almost always has nothing on but a little bit of white powder to matte her alabaster skin and lip balm on the red carpet event. (On occasion, a cranberry lip). Keys, however, has a considerably higher star wattage than the examples. Her saying “I’m good” (for now) to eyeliner, mascara, and foundation, all while performing at the BET Awards, presenting at the VMAs and as a new judge on The Voice this year, is a major sign of how we should start viewing beauty in America.

I love makeup. I’m not exactly sure when this love for it occurred. But the climb has been a steady one towards the ladder of undisputed glam. By age 27, it was routine to whip out the works of makeup applicators and products when getting dressed. Present day, I now also tolerate color correcting. This is laughable because no such thing took place when I was 22. I sometimes try to recall how I wore my makeup in my early twenties, but it is a blur. Did I really just leave the house with some face powder, few “coats” of mascara and lip gloss? Me, who gushes at the swatch of shimmery lavender eyeshadow with just the right amount of a navy undertone, encapsulated the get-up and glow look of brands like Glossier? The most dramatic switch-up I did was a heavy flush of blush, evocative of 1970s fashion. According to a good friend of mine, she promised that it actually looked great despite its gaudy connotation. Even then, I likely didn’t know how to brush on blush . At 22, that’s charming.

Primarily based on the last twelve months, I know I’ve become more dependent and affected by makeup. A natural look for me is truthfully not natural at all. I still have a layer of foundation with additional stippling of concealer and darkening of the eyebrows. I’ve tried to fulfill the BB cream look of tinted, light foundation. I just wasn’t satisfied with what I saw in the mirror. It would best and a start to admit that at the crux of my dissatisfaction is likely insecurity.

The endless possibilities makeup offers us is wonderful because freedom is great and with makeup can be colorful and artistic. On the other hand, I am bothered that I feel I don’t look as good without a sheet of foundation. I own so much makeup. A mixed combination of collector addiction and the incessant end for products that will give me the image I crave. It’s a damn shame I’m unsatisfied. When did I become defenseless against my own God-given face? My blood, sweat, and tears should be all the war paint I need. In plain English, is sucks when the freedom and power of makeup deviate from fabulous to an albatross.

Look here
You got the look (you got the look)
You must’a took (you must’a took)
A whole hour just to make up your face, baby
Closin’ time, ugly lights, everybody’s inspected (Everybody’s inspected)
But you are a natural beauty unaffected (Unaffected)
Did I say an hour?
My face is red, I stand corrected (I stand corrected)

“U Got The Look”, Prince featuring Sheena Easton

Alicia Keys first introduced her #nomakeup decision in an essay published by Lenny Letter in May. Lovingly written, as if for an old friend receiving an update on what’s new, she magnified moments of assimilation and experimentation in the name of trying to belong and self-discovery.

Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of. And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect. One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women. The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you’re plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked.

I needed these songs because I was really feeling those insecurities.

I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway? Did I even know HOW to be brutally honest anymore? Who I wanted to be?

At the beginning of her career, Keys extended her creativity towards her style. She re-popularized braids and cornrows. At the 2002 Grammys, where she won her five (of later fifteen) for her debut Songs In A Minor, she copiously decorated her eyelids with what looked like silver shimmery mini appliques. From The Diary of Alicia Keys onward, Keys mainly stuck to earthy, neutral tones for eye makeup and her tomboy chic evolved into Ann Taylor sensibilities by way of dirty sexy YSL and Gucci. But when she included in her “Time To Uncover” essay, that at one point in her career: “I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the “they’s” would accept me.”  I remembered how some commented that she had put her sexuality and sex appeal more on display with the 2009 album The Element of Freedom.

Keys shared that she hopes #nomakeup becomes “a revolution.” Thankfully, she was also made it clear that while this decision was made for her own personal journey and she doesn’t knock anyone else down for wanting to continue wearing makeup. The bigger banner here is what India.Arie originally stated in 2001: “I am not my hair. I am not this skin.”

It can be trying to regard quixotic notions of “I am what I am” when we’re all consistently being reminded that our choice of dress and hairstyles are an extension of ourselves. So how are we not our hair or makeup when this is how we want the world to see us? Because we are allowed to change our opinions, just like a shirt or eyeliner shade. We are not our hair, makeup, or clothes because those aren’t the only aspects that represents us. What makes us or you you isn’t just topical. I trust that that is the point of Keys’ #nomakeup crusade.

Her choice has inspired me to lay it on less (Shall we try this again, BB cream?) but also be unashamed of reacting school girl happy towards a lipstick color that’s the perfect boysenberry hue. It is nice to be seen as beautiful or pretty. It is more rewarding to be appreciated as an original or for simply being you. Are we still full of pure imagination to think this is possible in our digitized age?

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