Women’s faces and Alicia Keys not wearing any make-up

Apparently Alicia Keys doesn’t wear make-up to fancy awards ceremonies any more and it’s made headlines.


It’s made headlines because a few people on Twitter have been mean about it, saying slightly condescending things like ‘just put a bit of mascara on love’, raising the hackles of other people who feel baffled by the apparent fact that wearing mascara is normal, while having just your actual eyelashes on is newsworthy.

I’m writing a (very rushed) blog post about this non-news because I want to organise my thoughts about it. I’m sure I have an opinion about it. A strong one. A strong slightly angry one. It’s just that every time I start to formulate an argument in my head, the words ‘no, no I don’t care’ saunter right through the middle of it.

I think in general my stance is that the make-up industry has got out of control. It’s madly expensive. It DOES fuel insecurity, low self-esteem and (in some people) vanity and insufferable high self-esteem. Some women find that make-up is right up their street. They like collecting it, they like the exclusivity of some of the brands, the way the bottles look on their dressing tables, the pampering time putting it on, the process of learning to make it look good and the end-result of looking glamorous.

But it’s gone further than just looking nice. Wearing make-up is a statement of femininity. An assault of femininity. The impact of a made-up woman is powerful. Even I’m not immune to that. I can’t help noticing women who wear lots of make-up. I want to stare at them. They command attention. I imagine they are very organised, meticulous, with very high standards. This idea is fascinating and slightly intimidating for a girl like me.

But there is also a snobby, kind of mean part of my brain that wonders what’s below the surface. I wonder why they don’t have something ‘better’ to do. I wonder why they care so much about the way they look and who they’re trying to impress. I wonder what they’re hiding.

I feel a sense of pride that the beauty industry doesn’t have a hold over me. That I just spend 30p on my shampoo and frequently go about my daily life with no make-up on, not necessarily feeling beautiful but not feeling ugly either. Not feeling anything about it at all until things like this Alicia Keys ‘controversy’ crop up and make me think about it.

And then I look at myself judging those women and I feel like such a bitch, such a traitor to my fellow females. Because the truth is that being able to put on make-up well deserves appreciation, not scorn. Like sketching, painting. It takes concentration, dedication, time, research to know the tricks. It takes hard work to earn the money to pay for all those little bottles. It takes a certain patient, proud mind to organise them nicely on a dressing table.

Who am I to look down on that? And if I look down on that, why shouldn’t other women look down on people like me or Alicia Keys for not wearing any?

But I just don’t like the thought that I’m supposed to wear it. And that when a talented, famous woman chooses not to wear it, it’s a statement. One women’s magazine published a story analysing Alicia Keys’ ‘no make-up look’. Her ‘look’. Not her face. Her look. Because everything’s a look.

We shouldn’t care. I don’t really care. I’m just surprised at the reaction. Why are some women being so mean about it? Why do they think that she SHOULD be putting it on, like she’s being a heretic by breaking woman code? Don’t they know that the power isn’t in having the plumpest lips, the longest lashes, the highest cheekbones? That there’s a huge, wonderful power in doing what you want?

Some women want to wear make-up, some don’t. And that’s as interesting as it gets.


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