It’s not very often that you see celebrities bare-faced and completely natural, except when they’re held up for ridicule in “Stars without makeup!” tabloid stories.
Which is why we’re loving the fact that Alicia Keys has recently declared, in a heartfelt essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter newsletter, that she’s over makeup—and the constant judgment she (and every other woman) gets about her looks.
“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 says. “The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you’re plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked. All of it is so frustrating and so freakin’ impossible.”
A-freakin’-men. Keys is the latest in a recent string of celebs who are keeping it really real (nods to Kristen Bell, Amy Schumer, Dunham, and more)—and it’s really refreshing. Not only that, but she even performed at the Democratic National Convention—viewed by millions of Americans—sans makeup. Talk about badass.
Read on for three lessons Keys serves up in her Lenny Letter essay about finding your own path—and showing the real you.
1. When you hide your “imperfections,” you diminish yourself
In Keys’ essay, she remembers one of the first times she felt imperfect. It was in second grade, after picture day, for which she let her natural, frizzy hair out because her mother told her it was beautiful. But the other kids laughed at her. “You grab the brush and gel and pull your beautiful big hair back into the tightest ponytail you possibly can to contain your unique hair in a bun—hiding a piece of who you are in order to fit into a picture of what others seem to see as perfection.”
2. Trying to impress others is the quickest way to crazy-town
After stepping into the spotlight, her quest to fit in became even more of a thankless challenge. She dubs the “harsh, judgmental world” of the entertainment industry her “biggest test yet.” “I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the ‘they’s’ would accept me,” she writes.
Eventually, “I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway?” No stranger to wellness (she ran the NYC Marathon in 2015), Keys took up meditation (much like Lena): “I started focusing on clarity and a deeper knowing of myself. I focused on cultivating strength and conviction and put a practice in place to learn more about the real me.”
3. The #nomakeup movement is life-changing
After a recent photoshoot in which the photographer insisted on shooting Keys as she arrived—bare-faced and straight from the gym—she gave up makeup forever. “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt,” she recalls. That picture (above) became the cover of her single for one of her new songs, and she’s since been photographed for magazines sans makeup.
“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.”