Alicia Keys came into the industry uniquely raw and relatable. Some even felt like she was too raw and relatable, as if entertainers and celebrities are somehow supposed to exist in a superficial and almost perfect world of their own.
This perception—this standard is what sparked a realization for the singer.
In an essay for LennyLetter.com, Keys takes us on a journey through her mind filled with affirmations and realizations that came to fruition in a make-up free photoshoot for her album artwork that she attributes to the universe at work.
“We all get to a point in our lives (especially girls) where we try to be perfect,” the essay’s opening sentence states. Keys then begins to navigate through all of the possible instances that could have impacted the way in which a young woman (including herself) begins to feel it necessary to conform to society’s standards.
She references young girls containing their “big hair,” feeling uncomfortable with themselves as a result of seeing other girls skillfully apply and wear make-up, and even mentions the expectation to uphold a certain level of femininity.
“I remember when I first started to be in the public eye. Oh my gawd! Everyone had something to say. “She’s so hard, she acts like a boy, she must be gay, she should be more feminine!” But the truth is, I was just from New York, and everyone I knew acted like that,” Keys said as she arrives at the moment of transformation.
“But this wasn’t the streets of New York. This was the harsh, judgmental world of entertainment and my biggest test yet. I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the “they’s” would accept me.”
The songwriter became more aware of losing herself in the process of becoming the artist we all know, and decided to put her feelings into her new music.
Towards the end of the essay, Keys tells us about the way her intentions and actuality became one in a written walk-through on the makings of the photoshoot for her album artwork.
Keys’ photographer, Paola convinced the star to take photos that would reflect her music for the album: completely raw and real. The sweatshirt/baseball-cap ensemble she wore to the shoot accompanied her make-up-less face in the photos and fulfilled all of what Keys was seeking. She described the feelings as: “the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.”
Alicia Keys is hoping to start a revolution.