The Inspiring Reason Alicia Keys Is Going Makeup-Free

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Celebrities, they're just like us — they eat bagels! They hit up Target! And, on a more profound note, they have insecurities about going makeup-free, as Alicia Keys shared in an intimate essay for Lenny Letter this morning.

In the piece, Keys opened up about the societal expectations women face to be perfect from a young age. From second grade to junior high school and until very recently, she's dealt with the pressures of fitting into a mold that made her constantly uncomfortable. About her first days in the music industry, she writes: "I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the 'theys' would accept me."

Her state of mind began to shift when she started working on music for her forthcoming album, which is set to release this summer. "Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of," she wrote. "And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect... All of it is so frustrating and so freakin' impossible."

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.

Alicia Keys
In one of her new songs, "When a Girl Can't Be Herself," Keys wrote, "In the morning from the minute that I wake up / What if I don’t want to put on all that makeup / Who says I must conceal what I’m made of / Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem." This wasn't just something she jotted down to write a clever lyric, she wrote. "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."

In a photo shoot for the album, she was inadvertently forced to face her insecurities head-on. The singer arrived to the shoot post-gym — no makeup, hair wrapped in a scarf and under a baseball cap — and the photographer insisted on taking her picture like that. “I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too!” Keys recalls the photographer saying.

That very image became the artwork for her recent single "In Common," and, Keys says, it's the most beautiful she's ever felt. Her husband, Swizz Beatz, also posted a makeup-free image of Keys from a recent Vanity Fair shoot that shows her freckles up close and personal.
"I hope to God it’s a revolution," Keys wrote about the no-makeup movement her "In Common" artwork has spawned. "'Cause 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."

She shouldn't have to — and neither should anyone else.

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