Alicia Keys had everyone talking when she
arrived at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards
in wearing (gasp!) no makeup.
What was the decision behind her bold mode?
As it turns out, that choice was a long time
Here’s the real reason Alicia Keys stopped
She Was Becoming A ‘Chameleon’
In a powerful May 2016 essay for Lena Dunham’s
newsletter Lenny, Keys discussed how her many
years in the public eye had altered her perception
of beauty and perfection.
“I remember when I first started to be in
the public eye.
[…] Everyone had something to say.
‘She’s so hard, she acts like a boy, she must
be gay, she should be more feminine!’
But the truth is, I was just from New York,
and everyone I knew acted like that.
But this wasn’t the streets of New York.
This was the harsh, judgmental world of entertainment
and my biggest test yet.”
Keys said the pressures of being accepted
into the industry turned her into a “chameleon”.
“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.”
Her Insecurities Had Affected Her Music
With this “a-ha” moment in place, Keys soon
began to notice that many of the songs she
had written were about “masks filled with
metaphors about hiding.”
In her piece for Lenny, Keys calls out her
lyrics for “When a Girl Can’t Be Herself”.
“Who says I must conceal what i’m made of
/ Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my
“No disrespect to Maybelline, the word just
worked after the maybe,” Keys wrote in her
“But the truth is…I was really starting
to feel like that—that, as I am, I was not
good enough for the world to see.”
A Photo Shoot Changed Everything
With all of these thoughts and questions floating
about in her mind, Keys meditated.
This led to her finding “clarity and a deeper
knowledge” of herself, and a way to channel
her frustrations into a positive message.
Keys recalled arriving for a photoshoot fresh
from the gym, and her photographer wanted
to shoot her exactly as she arrived to reflect
the real and raw music on her album.
Although she hesitated at first, Keys finally
One of the photos became the artwork for the
song, “In Common.”
It was the picture seen ‘round the world,
prompting others to post selfies with the
#nomakeup hashtag in response to the real
She’s Sticking To Her Message
Keys closed her Lenny essay with hopes that
the #nomakeup realization would lead to a
“I don’t want to cover up anymore.
Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not
my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles,
not my emotional growth.
Keys has stayed true to her word, recently
making headlines when she showed up to the
August 2016 MTV Video Music Awards wearing—you
guessed it—no makeup.
She later explained her feelings on The Today
“How does it feel though, inside?”
“Really empowering, actually.
And you know I think the thing is, it kind
of came from…we put so many limitations
I think we put limitations on each other.
Society puts limitations on us, and in a lot
of ways, I’m sick of it.
I’m over it.”
She May Not Be Done With Makeup Forever
As with every celebrity-driven movement, Keys’
decision to go make-up free was criticized
by some who felt offended by what was perceived
as an “anti-makeup” stance.
Critics suggested she could only go makeup-free
because she was naturally beautiful.
The backlash prompted Keys to respond to the
criticism on Twitter.
“Y’all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn’t
mean I’m anti-makeup.
Keys also hinted in her interview on Today
that she may not be ready to end her relationship
with makeup altogether.
“By the way, you’re not anti-makeup.
You don’t begrudge other people wearing makeup.”
“I love makeup.
I love my lip gloss.
I love my blush.
I love my eyeliner.
It’s like not about that.
At the same time, I don’t want to feel beholden
to have to do it.”
“You’re not swearing it off forever.”
In the meantime, Alicia, do you.
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Alicia Keys had everyone talking when she arrived at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in wearing (gasp!) no makeup. What was the decision behind her bold mode? As it turns out, that choice was a long time coming. Here’s the real reason Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup…
She Was Becoming A ‘Chameleon’ | 0:17
Her Insecurities Had Affected Her Music | 1:10
A Photo Shoot Changed Everything | 1:43
She’s Sticking To Her Message | 2:19
She May Not Be Done With Makeup Forever | 3:08
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