A beautifully freckle-faced, au naturale Alicia Keys photo is breaking the Internet, but for the 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and activist, the latest photos symbolize a breaking of her own walls of insecurity and the many masks she’s worn. Keys recently penned a deeply personal letter reflecting on her evolution from being hidden in plain sight, to the revolution of being uncovered with #NoMakeup.
When Keys first entered the fishbowl gaze of the entertainment industry as a young woman, she writes that, “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.”
In the process of starting her forthcoming album, she recognized she was sick and tired of being sick and tired, particularly about “the constant judgment of women” and the unrealistic beauty standards of being skinnier, sexier and perfect.
“I realized that during this process, I wrote a lot of songs about masks filled with metaphors about hiding. I needed these songs because I was really feeling those insecurities. 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? I didn’t know the answers exactly, but I desperately wanted to.”
The opportunity came when she stepped in front of the lens of photographer, Paola. Keys writes about the shooting experience:
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.
I felt powerful because my initial intentions realized themselves. My desire to listen to myself, to tear down the walls I built over all those years, to be full of purpose, and to be myself! The universe was listening to those things I’d promised myself, or maybe I was just finally listening to the universe, but however it goes, that’s how this whole #nomakeup thing began. Once the photo I took with Paola came out as the artwork for my new song “In Common,” it was that truth that resonated with others who posted #nomakeup selfies in response to this real and raw me.
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.
The freedom of living your personal truth? It’s gets no more beautiful than that.