Last weekend at the VMAs, Alicia Keys gave a beautiful performance and recited a poem in honor of the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
But people aren’t talking about that.
Nobody’s talking about how gracefully she promoted love and equality. All people are talking about is her decision to attend the VMAs without makeup. When you type Alicia Keys into the Google search bar, the first thing that comes up is “Alicia Keys no makeup”, and we need to talk about it.
This is not a criticism for Keys choosing not to wear makeup: I think it’s really great. But I’m concerned about the fact that people are choosing to focus on her physical appearance rather than her reason for actually performing at the VMAs. If anything, her poem about choosing love over hate was far more empowering than whether or not she chose to wear makeup.
When did going makeup free become such a big deal? Why is it that it’s expected of celebrities, or any woman for that matter, to wear makeup whenever they go out in public? Why is the decision not to use it so empowering today? Whether or not you choose to wear makeup shouldn’t be newsworthy, because nobody has to use it. Pointing out bare faced celebrities and calling them brave makes it sound like there’s something wrong with using makeup, and while I get that some girls might need figures like Keys to feel more secure about going makeup free, it’s shocking that it’s seen as a form of empowerment.
It’s also shocking that it’s all people are talking about. Keys is the same person she was last week before the VMAs, so why are we making her appearance a priority rather than talking about the meaning of her performance? She isn't a better person for choosing not to wear makeup. Her worth isn’t in her appearance, nor is anyone else’s.
So let’s talk about it. Let’s stop shaming people for choosing to wear makeup, or choosing not to wear it, and stop shaming them for literally everything else they do. As soon as we stop this, we can teach girls that worth can be defined in so many ways and has nothing to do with their physical appearances.