Alicia Keys made a big statement when she released a makeup-free shot as the cover art for her first single in years, "In Common." The statement was a deliberate one. Keys explains in Lenny Letter why she opted for a bare-face.
Like many of us, Keys says she learned to strive for an ideal early and battled anti-Black beauty standards.
You grab the brush and gel and pull your beautiful big hair back into the tightest ponytail you possibly can to contain your unique hair in a bun — hiding a piece of who you are in order to fit into a picture of what others seem to see as perfection.
Most women face similar struggles that most are not international music stars. The level of scrutiny she endured intensified when she first became a public figure.
Everyone had something to say. "She's so hard, she acts like a boy, she must be gay, she should be more feminine!" But the truth is, I was just from New York, and everyone I knew acted like that.
The public dissections got to her.
But the truth is … I was really starting to feel like that — that, as I am, I was not good enough for the world to see.
But Keys recognized how unhealthy her self-concept had become. She says she's been doing some serious self work while she's been out of the spotlight.
I found my way to meditation, and I started focusing on clarity and a deeper knowing of myself. I focused on cultivating strength and conviction and put a practice in place to learn more about the real me.
It was just a plain white background, me and the photographer intimately relating, me and that baseball hat and scarf and a bunch of invisible magic circulating. And I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.
The shot is gorgeous and certainly striking. Alicia's testimony reminds us of how intimately connected all of our struggles. So much love to her for sharing her story.
Header photo: Pierre Debusschere