“Some people think that the physical things define what’s within.” ~ Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys rocked the music industry last week when she debuted not just her newest single—but also her new fresh-faced and confident look, thanks to her #nomakeup movement.
Keys said that she didn’t plan on being photographed without makeup during her shoot for Fault magazine. She was running late from the gym, and had her hair up and just a sweatshirt on—sounds like how most of us actually live, right?
Well, once there, at the encouragement of photographer Paola Kudacki, she went bare-faced in the magazine for the first time in her professional career, and has said that she has never felt more beautiful.
A photo posted by Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) on
Keys has always been a beautiful woman, but there is something particularly vulnerable and striking about her newest images, and also in the words of her most recently dropped single In Common.
I’ve been a fan since her very first album Songs in A Minor. Her songs have mirrored different transitions in my life, with her Diary of Alicia Keys echoing problems in my relationships to her powerful Girl on Fire, which was the soundtrack to my divorce and impending quest for freedom.
But it’s been a few years since we’ve last heard from Keys, and it’s clear that she’s been doing some growing up of her own.
After writing a powerful and breathtaking essay on Lenny, she has vowed to stop covering up— “Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
After reading her essay the only words that came to my mind were, damn girl.
She nailed it once again, and not just because she is in the public eye, or because she is one of the most successful female musicians and vocalists around—but because she managed to speak for millions of women with just a few sentences.
I also resonated with her because I’ve been on a similar journey—of leaving behind the days of covering my words, my feelings—and my face and body as well.
It’s been a path of learning that I am truly comfortable with who I am, and in many ways I love my no-makeup face more than I ever did when I had makeup on.
I think back to when I began wearing makeup in junior high, not really because I had put any thought into it, but as Keys said, it just seemed the thing to do in order to fit in.
Growing up, I didn’t have any women who went in public without makeup, and in fact my Bobci used to tell me how she had to “put her face on” before we went anywhere.
These women were beautiful to me—but they covered up, and so I came to believe that I had to as well.
Once I got a taste, I idolized the women in magazines with dark seductive liner and shadow and soon began copying them—and as I got older, the men I had in my life only reaffirmed this decision for me.
I have, to this day, still never had a lover tell me that he likes my face fresh with no makeup best—but that’s okay, because this past year I’ve come to believe that this is the real me.
I stopped wearing makeup in February of this year, not because of a movement or to make a statement, but because I was just f*cking tired of feeling like I was covering up who I really am. I was tired of pretending that #iwokeuplikethis, and instead wanted to get back to who I was, knowing that this time if that wasn’t good enough for a man—then that man wasn’t good enough for me.
The thing was, and I know many women feel like this as well, makeup gives us wings.
It gives us a persona to step into, we feel maybe a bit more confident, like with a few lines and brushes of shadow we can don our superhero cape and accomplish anything.
But that was the thing—I had lost the desire to be anyone other than who I was naturally.
I didn’t want to pretend that my skin is flawless—because it ain’t. I have freckles, and around that time of the month I still break out. It’s reality. My eyes change color depending upon my mood and the weather, and my eyebrows sure ain’t on fleek—but they are fine enough for me.
My looks are not determined by what the fashion magazines tell me I should look like during a particular season. I actually don’t give a damn about any trending fashion, I wear what I like when I like it, and more importantly I only wear things that feel good to me.
When I first began going in public and to work functions with no makeup, I felt naked—plain and simple. As if every thought and emotion was there on my face for the entire world to see. I didn’t feel sexy—after all, I had lost the dark smudges and wingtip liner and my lips were no longer stained the color of my favorite candy.
But then something pretty damn amazing began to happen—I started to look at myself in the mirror each day knowing that whatever I did, said or made happen that day was all me. It was my light pink bare lips, my rosy cheeks, my freckles, and my big eyes—and for the first time, that was enough for me.
I began to get my swagger back, although it might be in a more “men may wonder where my secret lays” type of hip sway that Maya Angelou spoke about in her poem Phenomenal Woman—and maybe that’s the truth I needed to learn.
That it’s not my looks that define me, and it’s not the color or brush of my hair but in something much greater—because maybe now I’ve finally learned where my secret has laid all along.
And perhaps Keys has also finally learned that a true woman’s worth is found in the beauty that comes from unabashedly being ourselves.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Emily Bartran