Last week Alicia Keys opened up and declared that she was embracing going sans makeup. In a personal and moving essay for Lenny, Keys explained why she was no longer going to wear makeup. In the essay, she equates wearing makeup to covering up her face, mind, soul, thoughts, dreams, etc. She ties makeup to the world sending the message that you’re not good enough as you are and an unrealistic expectation of perfection. I’ve never walked in her shoes. I’m just a plain, ordinary girl from rural Missouri, not a powerhouse of a musical talent from New York. I can’t crawl inside her head or her life and live her feelings, but I can say this: I respectfully disagree with Alicia Keys.
I do agree with her to an extent. There is absolutely a pressure on girls from an early age to fit into some sort of societal or cultural idea of what is “pretty” at that moment in time. When I was a kid it was permed hair, and stonewashed jeans worn tight before the 80s gave way to the 90s and the look went much more natural. I remember begging my mother for a particular outfit at the store, not because I was all that partial to it, but because it was what the girls I admired at school wore. It was what was in style. My mother, smart woman that she was, didn’t get it for me. Instead, she made me a whole batch of sweatshirts herself that I paired with normal jeans that school year. Every day I wish I still had the one with the little tipis on it. It was the best shirt ever and I felt amazing in it. No one was going to call me fashionable, but no one made fun of me, either. My cool came from being who I was and I didn’t lack for friends.
I didn’t wear makeup until high school because of my mom’s rules, and to be honest I didn’t wear it much once allowed to. When I did wear it, though? I wore it for myself. There is something absolutely magical about being able to pick up a brush and utterly transform what you see in the mirror to reflect how you feel inside. Dark, moody day when the PMS was bad and I just wanted to be left alone? I learned pretty fast I could smear on some eyeliner, taking my baby face to something harder and people left me alone. Feeling cheerful and happy and like I had the world on a string? That slick of bright pink lipstick lit up my smile and there wasn’t anyone that didn’t want to hang out with me because I was cordially inviting them all in.
Makeup let me express myself in ways that clothes couldn’t. Makeup gave my inner world a voice and often times more honestly communicated who I was than the words I would say. I could bend my words to play polite, but my face would always tell the truth.
Now that I’m an adult I’m still a big fan of makeup and as a professional makeup artist I still believe firmly that makeup has nothing to do with other people or the opinions of the world around you. Makeup is, and always should be, about the person wearing it. When I put on my makeup, be it a full face with dozens of products requiring an hour of my time or when I’m just dashing on some mascara and calling it good while my dark circles stand out in all their glory, I’m opening up a window to who I am. Made up or all natural, my face is always the most honest thing about me. What you see in the moment is exactly what you get. It’s the same when I am teaching women to do their own makeup or applying it to a client. I say it all the time: I don’t do makeovers. A makeover implies something is wrong and needs fixing. I do application. I work with the canvas in front of me. I’m just a girl with a brush helping women make self portraits of how beautiful they are at any given moment. And they are all beautiful, always.
We are all a million things inside and we all have a million faces. Makeup doesn’t cover anything up. It brings it all to light.
Maybe I get that from my mom, who rarely wore makeup herself and when she did wore whatever the hell she wanted to, hanging on to her blue eyeshadow long after society said it was pretty. She did what she wanted and she was the most beautiful woman I have ever known.
I absolutely respect Alicia Keys. I love her music. I love her strength. I love her face, with and without the makeup and I love that she feels so strongly about going makeup-free because there is nothing wrong with that at all. But I won’t be joining her movement. I won’t be giving up my makeup because my makeup doesn’t make me feel less than. My makeup isn’t for society. My makeup is for all of the faces of who I am and gives me another way to be pretty and powerful exactly as I am. So instead of #NoMakeup? I’m team #BeYourself whatever that looks like for you.