Every woman has her reasons for wearing makeup, or not wearing it. To some, it’s a form of self-expression; to others, it simply doesn’t hold any appeal.
While the way we present ourselves to the world is a deeply personal decision, it’s hard to argue that social pressures and expectations can influence it — and not necessarily in a way that’s positive or even healthy.
This is something Alicia Keys learned the hard way when she entered the “harsh, judgmental” entertainment business as a young woman.
In ‘Time to Uncover’, an essay she wrote for Lena Dunham’s e-newsletter Lenny, the 15-time Grammy Award winner describes how fame and the constant pressure to look a certain way made her feel as though she “was not good enough for the world to see”.
“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,” Keys writes.
Ultimately, the pressure to maintain ‘perfection’ — or at least, the stereotypical ideal of it — left her anxious about how she naturally looked.
“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???” she explains.
“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.”
Watch: Meghan Ramsay on the impacts of negative body image. (Post continues after video.)
The 35-year-old arrived at this conclusion while writing her yet-to-be-released sixth album.
Fed up with the scrutiny, stereotyping and judgement of women, she made a promise to herself that she’d approach her appearance differently in future.
“I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway? Did I even know HOW to be brutally honest anymore? Who I wanted to be?” she writes.
One of the first manifestations of Keys’ new mindset was the promotional artwork for her song In Common, where she’s photographed makeup-free.
"I’d just come from the gym, had a scarf under my baseball cap, and the beautiful photographer Paola (never met a Paola I didn’t like) said, 'I have to shoot you right now, like this! The music is raw and real, and these photos have to be too!'," the Girl on Fire singer recalls.
This wasn't exactly what she'd anticipated when she turned up to the shoot, and the prospect of 'baring all' initially made her nervous.
"My face was totally raw. I had on a sweatshirt! As far as I was concerned, this was my quick run-to-the-shoot-so-I-can-get-ready look, not the actual photo-shoot look," Keys writes.