No make-up Alicia Keys, black women & colorism

Most of you were probably shocked to see Alicia Keys walk down the time Red carpet with absolutely no make-up on her face. Even more shocking was the positive reception she received, about her courage in donning her natural sans make-up face. It probably felt like this was the beginning of a new era, where women (especially those in the public eye) can unashamedly attend functions and occasions, (and even go about daily life) without being expected to wear an ounce of make-up on their face, and still be received positively. I’m sure that’s what we all thought would be the outcome of Alicia Keys’ novel move. However, the reality of the outcome will play out in a way not many of us would expect.

Alicia Keys is a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing woman, by societal standards. She is light skinned, has euro centric features such as a thin nose and full (but not to big) lips, flawless skin and long natural hair. Anyone that looks at her would agree that she is visually attractive. Now compare her, to someone who, by conventional standards, is not as beautiful as Alicia Keys. Someone with darker skin, ‘stubborn’ natural hair, thick and full lips, a wide nose and not so flawless skin. Try to imagine the kind of reception such a woman would get, if she, like Alicia Keys, decided to step into the public eye without an ounce of make-up on her face. Would the reaction be the same as Alicia’s? Or would the reaction be negative? Chances are that, the reception would not be the same, and would most probably be negative.

The reality is, as accepting and tolerant as we aim to be, lighter people with more euro centric features are generally celebrated more for their beauty, than their darker counterparts. That is why the reception to Alicia Keys’ make-up void face was so positive. It is because she is already deemed to be beautiful by conventional standards, with or without make-up. Darker skinned women always have to go an extra mile just to conform to beauty standards. This often means wearing make up and contouring facial features, to conform with euro-centric beauty standards. A dark skinned woman with Afro-centric features is unlikely to be praised and revered for stepping into the public eye, as a celebrity, with no make-up on. Take Keke Palmer for example. When she decided to go sans make-up, she was ridiculed and heralded as being unattractive without make-up. It just seems as though society is abrasive to embracing the natural and imperfect face of a quintessential dark black woman.

That being said, Alicia Keys’ novel stance against make up, is highly unlikely to change the narrative on how black women are perceived without make-up. She sets the standard for how she and others who resemble her, will be perceived. Unfortunately, she does nothing to change the angle of perception for dark-skinned women. Therefore, can we really say that she has revolutionized a movement for black women?


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