Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Alicia Keys and the ‘Tyranny of Makeup’

From The New York Times: 
It was the Friday before Labor Day, and Alicia Keys, the 35-year-old pop star, was on the “Today” show performing for the program’s summer concert series — she’s about to release a new album, and she wrote the theme song for “Queen of Katwe,” out next week. There was a lot to talk about. But instead, Ms. Keys spent most of her time talking about makeup (and not wearing it) with the anchors Tamron Hall, Billy Bush and Al Roker, who were doggedly wiping the pancake off their faces.

“You’re all crazy,” said Ms. Keys, swabbing Ms. Hall’s cheeks. “This isn’t even what it’s about!”
“It” is #nomakeup — a meme, a movement, a cri de coeur — that has been roiling social media for months. If you missed the kerfuffle, it started in May, when Ms. Keys wrote an essay for Lenny, Lena Dunham’s online magazine, about the insecurities she felt being a woman in the public eye, and the roles (and makeup) she put on over the years to armor herself. She wrote about the anxiety she endured if she left her house unadorned: “What if someone wanted a picture? What if someone posted it?” And then, when she went without makeup or styling for an album portrait, she felt liberated, and the act became a metaphor. “I hope to God it’s a revolution,” she wrote.

In the months that followed, Ms. Keys was seemingly everywhere — always without makeup, always beautiful — performing at the Democratic National Convention, on “The Voice” and the MTV Video Music Awards, at the Tom Ford show during New York Fashion Week.

That’s a nice story, right? Inspiring and kind of sweet? Feh. “Makeup-gate 2016,” as The New York Post and others called it, has grown only weirder and louder, as Twitter was at first ignited with Alicia Keys supporters, and then flooded with a backlash against her. And then with the backlash to the backlash. #Nomakeup was empowering and brave. No, it was annoying, incendiary and invasive. Ms. Keys’s (mostly female) detractors howled at her disingenuousness (surely she had spent thousands on skin care?) and her deceit (surely she was wearing tinted moisturizer?); some slammed her for not looking pretty enough (though they used coarser words than those).

Late last month, Swizz Beatz, Ms. Keys’s husband, took to Instagram with a video defending his wife: “This is deep,” he said, clearly incredulous. “Somebody’s sitting home mad, because somebody didn’t wear makeup on their face?”

Don’t be surprised that this is news, said Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the second-wave feminist activist and author. “It’s all so familiar,” she said. “Alicia Keys could be taking a page from the no-makeup orthodoxy of the women’s movement 40 years ago. I’d never heard of her before this brouhaha, but now I’ll follow her anywhere. What she’s doing is pop-consciousness-raising. She’s not just talking about the tyranny of makeup. She’s talking about female authenticity. She’s challenging the culture’s relentless standards of feminine conformity and the beauty industry’s incessant product hype.”
(Ms. Pogrebin said that while she was reading Ms. Keys’s essay, an ad popped up for some kind of skin cream.)

Why is it, wondered Linda Wells, founding editor of Allure magazine, that fashion is considered self-expression and makeup is self-absorption? Or something more pernicious? Ms. Wells recalled “The Beauty Myth,” Naomi Wolf’s 1991 book in which she argued that contemporary ideals of beauty, proposed in large part by a male-dominated cosmetics industry, were enslaving women and holding them in thrall to all manner of restrictive practices, from makeup to surgery to eating disorders. “I get the argument, but I don’t agree with it,” Ms. Wells said. “To me, we’re not all passive victims. Make your choice, like Alicia Keys. Decide what makes you feel confident and enjoy it.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/15/fashion/alicia-keys-no-makeup-beauty-movement.html

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