The VMA awards finished a week ago and we’re still talking about the fact Alicia Keys attended them makeup-free.
At an event known for producing controversy-stirring spectacles; not the least, near-naked red carpet appearances (of which stars like Nicki Minaj and Miley have repeatedly pushed the envelope), award-stealing antics (Kanye, I’m looking at you) and live reptiles on stage (who can forget Britney’s snake twirling performing Slave 4 U in 2001?), it somehow made the biggest news of the night that a woman decided to forego eyeliner.
Not the fact that Keys presented a powerful poem in honour of Martin Luther King Jr, who gave his “I Have a Dream” speech 53 years ago, or the fact that she sung completely a cappella – with no back-up dancers or special effects to detract from her incredible powerhouse performance (certainly a much more news-worthy feat given the amount of lip-syncing that typically takes place during awards performances); nope, all everyone’s been interested in talking about since the VMAs aired last week is whether or not Keys should have used a little concealer to cover her under-eye circles.
Yawn. I’m so over it.
I love Alicia Keys but I have zero interest in weighing in on whether or not she was in fact wearing just a touch of mascara or should have bothered to contour. And I’m so over hearing about it. Sub Keys out with just about any semi-notable woman you can think of and it’s just the same story we’ve heard eleventy billion times before (and yes, I know that’s not a real number).
If we’re not slamming Renee Zellweger for daring to age or critiquing Kim Kardashian for being proud enough of her body to pose nude, we’re speculating whether Jennifer Anniston’s stomach indicates she’s pregnant.
I’m so over the non-stop public commentary and policing of women’s bodies, faces, outfit choices, makeup, weight loss, weight gain, post pregnancy cellulite and ‘has she or hasn’t she’ plastic surgery scrutiny. It’s not only exhausting, annoying and incredibly repetitious, it’s painfully damaging to our self-esteem as women.
I’m really glad I’m not raising a daughter in this culture. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is for mothers to drown out the constant barrage of near-deafening messages that tell girls as young as six their bodies are commodities, and as such, require constant dieting, exercizing and covering up in order to be made bearable for society’s eyes. That their worth rests on how good they look in certain clothing, the way their hair is done and makeup applied, and that regardless of their size, they almost certainly need to lose weight.
A friend’s 13 year-old daughter recently asked me for advice on what makeup to buy, “to cover my under-eye bags”. I instantly recoiled and attempted to mask my horror as I replied “none”, at the same time feeling thankful that I didn’t know there was such a thing as under-eye bags at the same age (I was preoccupied with tearing posters of Nick Carter out of magazines and plastering them to my bedroom wall and thankfully didn’t have to worry about how I looked in social media photos, which hadn’t yet become a thing). And a couple of years ago, another friend’s daughter, all of 10, who I was taking to the beach for the day, stopped in front of a mirror in her bikini on our way out the door, pinched at an invisible fold of fat on her stomach, and complained she needed to lose weight to look good in a swimsuit.
If a girl can make it to adulthood without equating her body with her worth in today’s painfully critical, narcissistic culture, it’s pretty much a miracle.
Even as a 32 year-old adult woman who thankfully avoided much of the hyper-critical commentary of women that’s exploded into every aspect of our culture since the advent of social media, I’m drawn to equate my own worth with my appearance, which, as an average-looking person, often leaves me feeling not good enough, as if having a prettier face or a more shapely body would somehow make me better.
Keys choice to forgo makeup, if anything, proves perhaps there is a sliver of hope we can break through the persistent commentary and policing of our bodies and instead say ‘Screw it. I’m going to define myself on my own terms. And if someone doesn’t like it? They can get screwed.’ So let’s give her a break, and while we’re at it, cut the rest of womankind some slack and stop participating in discussions that only serve to drag one another down. How about instead, for once, we have a go at lifting each other up and focusing on worthwhile things, like our accomplishments and values?
I’ll go first: last week Alicia Keys performed at the VMAs, and girl kicked ass.
Image via twitter.com.
Comment: What’s your reaction to the commentary on Alicia Keys’ makeup-free face at the VMAs?
Nadia is a journalist, media commentator and editor with a penchant for hoarding makeup and an opinion on just about everything. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Cosmopolitan, and many more. She's a passionate advocate for destroying mental health stigma and sexually empowering women, and has absolutely no concept of TMI. Follow Nadia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.