Virtually every woman feels the pressure to live up to often unrealistic expectations of beauty and physical perfection, and this pressure must be even more acute if you work in the entertainment industry. So says Alicia Keys, who penned an essay about feeling like she constantly had to hide who she really was in order to be perfect as a famous singer, until she decided to stop wearing makeup.
Keys writes in Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny, that the pressure to conform can start in grade school when you start concealing the frizz in your hair, and then when you start wearing makeup in order to fit in with the quote-unquote pretty girls. Then, for Keys, it continued when she first hit it big as a musician, when people criticized her for not acting feminine enough. So she changed her look, but having to do so chipped away at her self esteem:
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.
Keys wrote a song her upcoming album about impossible beauty standards, called “When A Girl Can’t Be Herself,” but she actually started to dismantle those standards for herself by doing an album shoot without any makeup on, having just come from the gym. Because of the years spent wearing makeup for professional photo shoots however, the photographer had to convince her to sit for photos in her gym look.
The result is above; she looks amazing. It’s also part of the artwork for her new single, “In Common.”
The Huffington Post has compiled other Instagram photos of her wearing no makeup, and her hair naturally with a headscarf. One is similar photo in black and white.
She looks just as radiant and happy in the other photos. Alicia Keys has truly become queen of the #nomakeup selfie. Hopefully this change isn’t in place just to promote her latest album, though Keys is certainly entitled to change her no makeup stance. And no matter what, these pictures are beautiful and inspiring.