Following Alicia Keys’ bold decision to appear at the MTV Video Music Awards makeup-free, everyone’s had the same burning question: to wear or not to wear makeup? Before waving your blending brush in disdain and rejecting Keys’ decision to bare it all, it is worth understanding her motive and the message she hopes to translate.
Tying back her curly mane, concealing her freckled-skin, plucking, pulling, pinching — these were the things Keys felt she had to do in order to present herself to the world. These were the things that compromised her self-esteem after spending over a decade in the spotlight and being subject to the entertainment industry’s stringent standard of beauty.
Months ago, Keys wrote a piece titled “Time to Uncover” in Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny, in which she explained how crippling her insecurities were. Keys shared that her journey began when she stopped listening to others and began listening to herself. It led her to slough away layers of insecurity, involuntary judgement and the need to appeal to others in order to reclaim her self-assurance.
“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???” Keys said in her Lenny letter. “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.”
Interestingly, Keys’ message comes at a time when makeup has become a huge trend and its own revolution. With makeup trending on social media, it is nearly impossible to scroll through Instagram or YouTube without coming across a makeup tutorial, makeup advertisement or a mention of Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kits. However, just as Keys believes she promotes a positive message without makeup, other men and women believe wearing makeup every day is great for building a person’s confidence. Most importantly, however, both parties emphasize that makeup is a choice not to be imposed.
CAS sophomore Alexandra Leatherwood is someone who wears makeup every day, yet understands Keys’ message and hopes it inspires people to be confident with or without makeup.
“I hope what people see through Alicia Keys’ movement is that they don’t have to wear makeup to be seen as perfect,” Leatherwood said. “That they can choose to wear makeup, or not, and still be beautiful.”
Conversely, Liberal Studies sophomore Alexandra Shveda is someone who only wears mascara and lip balm at most, but nonetheless supports others wearing makeup for the right reasons.
“I personally couldn’t do it. I don’t want to spend the time, effort, and money on it. It doesn’t matter that much to me,” Shveda said. “But I hope they do it because they genuinely have a passion for doing makeup, not because they feel forced into it because of societal expectations.”
To answer the question posed earlier, the decision to wear makeup is subjective. You have every right to walk into your 8 a.m. class with a full-face of makeup, complete with a sharp contour and blinding highlight … or not.
Medardo Perez is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.