One of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog two years ago was about finding strength in our vulnerability. It basically talked about how learning to embrace and accept our weaknesses and imperfections ultimately breeds growth, stability and self-sufficiency. What inspired me to write this post was the scene from How to Get Away with Murder where Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) wipes her ENTIRE FACE clean — eyebrows and all — with ONE makeup wipe (I can barely clean my whole face with two, so shawty definitely got some skills).
I still get chills to this day from watching that scene. The artistry and symbolism behind it was so raw, real, and beautifully executed that I damn-near cried after RE-WATCHING it just five minutes ago while writing this post. Whew! ALL the props go to Auntie Viola for that one. SHE DID DAT.
But speaking of makeup removal, Alicia Keys just gained a whole new level of respect in my book after reading her recent Lenny Letter about her journey to fully embracing her mental, spiritual and physical truths. And by “physical truths” I mean choosing to go totally and completely makeup-free. For, like, ever. So now she’s starting this whole #nomakeup movement encouraging other women to embrace their true beauty.
Do y’all realize how serious — no. How amazing — no. I need a better word. How completely badass that is? (I’m sorry, no other adjective can work for this.)
Y’all don’t even know how happy I am that she’s making such a bold, fearless move in a society that constantly criticizes women — especially BLACK women — just for being who we are. Every. Single. Day. It’s already enough being a woman, but add some melanin to the equation and you’re in a whole different ballgame.
For CENTURIES we’ve been told by society that straight hair is better than curly, kinky hair. We’ve been conditioned to believe that light skin is better than dark skin. And because of these racially biased standards of beauty, we’ve been torn apart and pitted against one another within our own race. Keep in mind, this is all being a BLACK woman.
As women in general, we’ve been brainwashed ever since we were little girls with Barbie dolls and fashion magazines that a certain body shape, skin tone/hair color, weight and height is “beautiful.” We’ve been taught to look, dress and act a certain way in order to be accepted. Our skill sets and talents are constantly overshadowed by our physical attributes and appearance in the entertainment and corporate world, where far too many of us are underrepresented, underpaid and undervalued.
But Alicia said, You know what? I’m sick and tired of this ish. Matter fact, I’ma write a song (on her upcoming album) about just how sick and tired I am. And to FURTHER prove how sick and tired I am, I’ma come straight from the gym — raw, ripe and glistenin’ with sweat — to my ALBUM COVER PHOTO SHOOT and take these pics. Just. Like. This. No makeup. No stylist. No beautician. Just me and my Black, high-yellow, curly-haired, nekked-faced self. And y’all might as well get used to it, ’cause the makeup is staying AWF.
I AM SO HERE FOR THIS. Here’s why:
- There are sooooo many layers here. Alicia Keys is not just a woman. She is a Black woman. On top of being a Black woman, she is a celebrity. Which means she is a Black woman who is always in the public eye. Which means she is constantly being held under a microscope for not only her performances, but her personal life as well. In this society, perfection is the standard. And celebrities like AK are the ones who set that standard. Which means people are constantly watching her to see what her next move is gonna be. And then she makes a boss move like this. But it’s not even just what she did, it’s when she did it.
- She did it smack dab in the middle of the shallowest, most superficial era in history. In the narcissistic generation of Amber Roses and Kylie/Kim Kardashians. In the digital age of Snapchat, Instagram filters and selfies. In a crucial time where altering your lips, facial structure, and other natural body parts is about as normal as changing your outfit. In the midst of all of this, Alicia made the conscious decision to remove all the glitz and glamour, expose her weaknesses to the world, and after all of that, say, “I’m STILL good enough.”
- Little [Black] girls all over the world will see this. They will see a famous woman in magazines and blogs just being her real, natural self. They will see a Black woman choosing to boldly defy society’s standards and define what true beauty means to her. They will see a new meaning behind “I woke up like ‘dis.” They will realize that, in an age where we sing and chant about being Flawless, that it’s actually perfectly fine to have flaws. They will witness a new standard of beauty — one that allows them to be free to love and be their perfectly imperfect selves.
I love Alicia for doing this because it’s SO much deeper than choosing to wear makeup versus choosing not to (because, let’s be honest — a lil’ foundation, bronzer and blush every once in a while ain’t never hurt nobody). It’s more so about not letting the opinions, actions or perceptions of others define who you are. It’s about being comfortable with being YOU, both inside and out. It’s about finding perfection in our imperfections. It’s about being strong enough to be vulnerable sometimes. And it’s about being — and staying — true to yourself.
So whatever that means to you, do it. But do it boldly and unapologetically, like Alicia.