Alicia Keys can sing with the best of them and has been on the radar of mainstream fans since her colossal 2002 debut album, Song in A Minor. She also served as voice coach on the popular music reality competition, The Voice. But in recent years, the singer has made more headlines for adopting a no-make-up policy often than her music.
However, in a new interview with Variety, Keys explained that whether she puts on make-up or not is entirely her decision.
“Sometimes, I want some damn makeup, and I’m going to wear it! Guess what — if I want to wear red lipstick and put eyelashes on, I can do whatever I f—ing want. I am the creator of my own destiny,” she said.
The no-make up story began somewhere in 2016 when Keys penned an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter titled Time to Uncover, in which she spoke about going without make-up for the promotional art of her song ‘In Common’. The piece went viral and since then she has turned up at The Grammys (2018) sans make-up and been applauded for speaking up on the issue.
“Suddenly it was a movement, and I don’t even know what that means,” said Keys. “It doesn’t have anything to do with makeup or no makeup. It has to do with who are you, what makes you feel good, how do you want to express that and even just asking the questions — What do I feel? How do I feel good? However that is, you should do it.”
Having been around in the industry since the age of four, Keys told Variety that the message that’s being sent to young women in the entertainment business is akin to being in prison.
“We’re supposed to be this big, and so tiny, and so skinny. If we have any hips or any thickness or width with us, we’re fat. We torture ourselves; we don’t eat. I’ve experienced all of that. I was subscribing to this sick identity… Stay in your place, be feminine, be a lady, don’t make too much noise. If you go to work without makeup, it’s like, Are you tired? You look tired. And it’s like, I’m not f—ing tired!”
Speaking about the recent wave of revelations about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, Keys told Variety, “It’s layered. My first instinct is great pride for all of us as women who are finding our voices.”
But she added: “How long ago was the suffragette movement? The early 1900s! The fact that it is 2018 and we are still at this place?” Why are we still talking about this?! You’re wasting our time! We could be out here kicking ass!”
According to Keys, the answer lies in shifting the balance of power. “Until we’re in those rooms as equally as men are, it can’t shift. We have to infiltrate our industries. Period. We have to. That alone will shift the power balance.”
Expanding on what that infiltration should look like, Keys noted, “Does that mean we have to go to war between men and women? That’s not going to create the change we want to see.”
Surrounded by men in her life including her husband and two sons, Keys noted, “I want [my sons] to grow up in a world where they’d never think boys are better than girls — or that black is better than white. And yet I also want them to have the pride of their history and their ancestry, because when we know our individuality we can really have empathy and feel strong.”
– With information from Variety