Interestingly, Alicia Keys attended this year’s MTV Video Music awards sporting a new look; she was completely makeup free. In actuality, Alisha’s new look had been taking shape over the previous months. In a powerful May 2016 essay for Lena Dunham’s newsletter ‘Lenny’; Alisa discussed how many years in the public eye had altered her perception of beauty and perfection:
“I remember when I first started to be in the public eye. Oh my gawd! Everyone had something to say. ‘She's so hard, she acts like a boy, she must be gay, she should be more feminine!’…This was the harsh, judgmental world of entertainment and my biggest test yet”.
Alisha went on to explain that industry pressures had changed her, turning her into a “chameleon, who “was never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so they would accept me”. She continued: “ 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”. Eventually her insecurities began affecting her music to the extent that her lyrics became full of metaphors about masks and hiding e.g. the song ‘when a girl can’t be herself’ states: '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’. “No disrespect to Maybelline’, Alisha added, “the word just worked after the maybe. But the truth is … I was really starting to feel like that — that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see”.
Alisha went on to recall the moment that everything changed: “I'd just come from the gym, had a scarf under my baseball cap, and the beautiful photographer Paola said, ‘I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too'! Although she initially resisted she eventually allowed Paola to take some photographs.
“That's how this whole #nomakeup thing began", Alisha said. “Once the photo I took with Paola came out as the artwork for my new song 'In Common', it was that truth that resonated with others who posted #nomakeup selfies in response to this real and raw me. I hope to God it's a revolution 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”.