So last week was the MTV Video Music Awards and my take back was that Beyoncé continues to reign as queen and Alicia Keys continues to not wear any makeup.
As someone who has to wear makeup eight times a week as part of her job I relish the days I can go makeup free. I like being able to touch my face and now worry about smudging anything or being able to hug someone wearing white and not worry that part of my face will be left on them. But wearing makeup has its perks too. There is something about looking good that helps you feel good and for me looking good involves wearing a cute outfit and a splash of makeup. But just as I accept the cuteness of my outfit is subjective, the necessity of my makeup is subjective too. I am inherently lazy so my makeup routine is never longer than twenty minutes. I have no patience with contouring and can barely sit through a youtube makeup tutorial let alone experiment on myself so I guess you could call my look understated?
In May of this year Alicia Keys wrote an open letter to lennyletter.com titled "Time to Uncover" about how she felt pressured by society and the industry to look and act a certain way. She had to wear makeup to feel beautiful, be skinny to be attractive, and be naked to be sexy. In short, she felt like she was forced to cover up the true parts of herself and become a chameleon. She no longer wants to cover up any part of herself; and that includes her face.
My response to Alicia Keys's #nomakeup was, good for her. The Internet did not respond similarly but since when has the Internet been kind? I don't understand the outrage and I don't understand the backlash. I feel like what we have here is another case of people misunderstanding a movement. Alicia Keys's choice not to wear makeup isn't supposed to undermine your choice to wear makeup but rather it's to amplify that wearing makeup is, and should be, a choice. You shouldn't have to wear makeup to look professional; you shouldn't have to wear makeup to feel pretty, you shouldn't have to wear makeup to face the world. Alicia Keys isn't saying that women shouldn't wear makeup she's just standing up for the right not to and still be accepted.
I started wearing makeup when I was eleven or twelve I think. I started with eyeliner and mascara and lipstick. I wasn't a lipgloss girl, I was all about the lipstick. My mum's lipstick has always been her signature to me and I've always wanted to be like my mum. For the whole of high school I didn't leave the house without makeup on. It was just concealer, eyeliner, mascara and something on my lips but I didn't leave home without it. I remember one of my best friends had sensitive skin and couldn't wear makeup and I felt sorry for her. From the age of twelve to twenty-one I wore makeup every single day and I found that, with makeup, the more you put on the more you feel you need to put on. It can be like a snowball affect until you have so much makeup on your face you begin to dislike what actually lies beneath it all. One day I just stopped, just to get reused to liking my natural face, and at first it felt liberating but pretty soon it just felt normal.
Nowadays I generally don't wear makeup during the day unless the mood takes me, which it rarely does. I do wear makeup if I'm going out in the evening though. It's part of my getting "gussied up" routine. But whether you catch me with makeup or without it, I'm still the same person. Wearing makeup no longer feels like something I have to do. I can leave the house, be photographed, and talk to a cute guy without makeup and still feel confident and beautiful. I can appreciate when people see me wearing makeup and say I look particularly good that day but it won't make me want to look like that everyday because that's not really me. It's the enhanced version of me, which is great, but if you're not willing to accept the standard version then you have no right to desire the enhanced. An ex-boyfriend once told me I should be more like another girl – mutual friend – who always "made an effort" and looked "feminine" and "put together" – meaning she always had her hair, face and nails did. That's just one of the many reasons why he became an ex.
I'm not writing this to condemn makeup or wearers of makeup. Makeup is great and I'm not chucking my makeup bag away or cancelling my MAC customer account just yet. But I do think we have a problem with makeup and beauty standards for women in general. The very fact that #nomakeupselfie needs to be a movement shows our unhealthy relationship with makeup. We expect celebrities to cover up everything that makes them human and we ridicule them when they don't. I hate those articles that pop up on the web and in gossip magazines about how bad this famous woman looks without makeup. What is that teaching young women if not to never leave the house without their face painted on? Alicia Keys has been called brave from not wearing makeup and I agree that she is brave but doesn't that strike you as a problem in itself?
I hope Alicia Keys remains makeup-less forever just to promote the choice of not wearing makeup. This woman is taking bare-face photos, having bare-face concerts and showing up to awards shows bare-faced and I am all for it. Choosing not to wear makeup – and I mean not so much as a concealer – still isn't seen as a viable option for the majority of women and so I commend Alicia for promoting it. We promote full-bodied figures because skinny has been the beauty norm for so long but that doesn't mean naturally skinny girls are not beautiful. I promote natural "kinky" hair because straight hair has been the beauty norm for too long but naturally straight hair is also beautiful. Variety is the spice of life, people.
For my part I hope the movement takes off and I hope it grows so large that it isn't even a movement anymore. May we all learn to embrace the normalcy of the no makeup selfie.