Alicia Keys might have been out of the game for a while–fours years to be exact since the release of her 2012 album Girl On Fire–but she hasn’t lost her bold, straight-forward personality and the fearlessness to speak up about what she believes in.
In an essay for Lenny Letter, the “Unbreakable” singer is very candid about her struggles with beauty and self esteem. Through this narrative, Keys paints the picture of a young girl who hides her natural hair and covets the makeup skills of older girls in junior high school. She says that once she entered the public eye, her preoccupation with perfection became increasingly daunting.
While working on her new album, Keys came to terms with how frustrated she was with the way women are brainwashed to believe that they have to look or act a certain way to be accepted. She began writing songs such as “When a Girl Can’t Be Herself” that followed her journey to self acceptance and spoke genuinely of stepping from under the scope of speculation women are constantly under.
It was during a photoshoot for her new album that a photographer insisted that she pose exactly as she was–bare-faced, head-wrapped realness. The “You Don’t Know My Name” singer admits that she was initially hesitant, but once she saw the photos, she was overcome with emotion.
“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,” Keys says. “And I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.”
After this image accompanied her new single “In Common,” women everywhere posted their own #nomakeup selfies, and further perpetuated the movement of loving oneself without reservation.
“I hope to God it’s a revolution,” Keys says. “‘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.”