Alicia Keys: #nomakeup and its Relationship to Blackness and Feminism
If you haven’t heard, Alicia Keys has returned to music AND stopped wearing makeup entirely, including for photoshoots and performances. She has established a movement she is calling #nomakeup.
In her essay for Lenny Letter Keys explained:
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.
She went on to say:
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. Nothing.
Alicia has undoubtedly reached a place where she is comfortable and secure with herself and this is a great achievement . Her career so far has been filled with comments on her lack of femininity and boyish outward appearance, so finally deciding to be herself and putting away the makeup she saw as something to hide behind is a bold and inspiring move particularly for a woman of colour.
For countless years, black women have struggled with a beauty industry that does not embrace or accept them.
In 2016 the struggle for black women's acceptance is at the forefront of the black community and is feeding through into wider contemporary culture; Alicia's sentiments forming just a small part of a wider dialogue around the beauty and value of black women of all shades and body types.
However not everybody looks like the conventionally attractive Alicia Keys or indeed will share her sentiments, and #nomakeup is not going to be relatable or empowering to everybody.
One thing that shouldn't be taken from Keys' revelations or her movement is that there is anything wrong or indeed anti-feminist about wearing makeup. Psychological and social empowerment can be gained through cosmetics; allowing women and men to unashamedly embrace their individuality, style or sexuality. Cosmetics can be traced back as far as Ancient Egypt as a unisex symbol of spirituality.
Although the beauty industry perpetuates an unattainable standard designed to inspire insecurity to increase sales, this should not be confused as an inherent problem with makeup itself.
Big up Alicia!