We should all stop caring when celebrities don't wear makeup

Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys has become known for not wearing makeup.

Since writing about her choice in Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter in May, the Grammy-award winning artist has been open with her decision, whether it's in her daily life, to award shows like the VMAs or the BET Awards, at the Democratic National Convention, in the September issue of Ebony, or even as a host on NBC's "The Voice."

"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," Keys wrote.Advertisement

There have been some detractors - read: trolls - on Keys Instagram and Twitter. The criticism even prompted a response from her husband Swizz Beats and from Keys herself, who tweeted: "Y'all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn't mean I'm anti-makeup. Do you!"

But largely, her decision has been met with praise. Many publications, including INSIDER, ran with the story. People tweet at her, saying: "You look beautiful," "natural beauty," and with sentiments like "if I looked like Alicia Keys, I wouldn't wear makeup either."

Despite Keys' best intentions, the pubic reaction is problematic. The whole point of her piece in Lenny Letter was about unrealistic beauty ideals for women, and yet most of the responses have been about how gorgeous she still is.


Keys is not the only star to remain bare-faced and be praised for it: Adele, Mila Kunis, and Brie Larson are all recent examples, and they also have a chorus of fans shouting about how stunning they still look.

Why is it that we only praise women for not wanting to wear makeup when they're still attractive without it? The idea that someone doesn't need makeup should be applied to literally every human being on the planet because no one actually needs makeup. But it's usually just a compliment reserved for the beautiful.Advertisement


Like most everything that has to do with women's bodies and choices, makeup is political. Our decision to wear it, some may argue, is tied to patriarchal ideals of beauty. Therefore our decision to forego makeup is a rejection of those ideals, and should be celebrated.

It often is. We call female celebrities "brave" for posting a "#nomakeup selfie" and people like Piers Morgan tweet about how Keys is "100 times more 'empowering'" than celebrities like Kim Kardashian who post nude selfies.


But that attitude is far too simplistic. It ignores the women (and men!) who choose to wear makeup as a statement, or because they simply want to. It also fails to fight the culture that Keys and others have spoke out against, the one where "groomed-looking women" - aka women who wear makeup - are perceived to be more competent, trustworthy, and likable. Beauty is even correlated in America with higher salaries

It's a system that's hard to fight, especially when our initial reaction to a woman's bare face is to say, "she doesn't need makeup, she still looks beautiful."We're still valuing beauty, it's just a different kind. It's now "natural" and "authentic," as though women who choose to wear makeup are neither.Advertisement

Your daily decision to wear or not wear makeup is entirely up to you. You're not a "good" woman for not wearing makeup no more than you're a "good" woman for wearing it. You can be just as inspiring with blush on as you can be rocking a bare face at the VMAs.

alicia keys

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Someday, I hope that a celebrity not wearing makeup is met with a shrug instead of headlines, comments, and hateful trolls.Advertisement

Because at the end of the day, like Keys says, "Do you!"

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