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The Anger Provoked By Alicia Keys Not Wearing Makeup To The VMAs Is Sadly Not Surprising

30/08/2016 14:10 | Updated 30 August 2016

Alicia Keys made a quiet stand for gender equality at the VMAs 2016 - simply by choosing to wear no makeup.

A woman making a decision for herself about how she wants to look shouldn't be revolutionary, but the reaction on Twitter proves we still have a long way to go before women are allowed the same freedoms as men when it comes to their appearance.

alicia keys vmas

Many people said Keys' VMAs appearance was a "step too far" and pleaded for her to "put on some mascara", while others took her no makeup stance as a personal affront.

"Alicia Keys and her fake ass feminist 'don't wear makeup and love yourself' campaign needs to go," wrote one irked commenter.

At first I was amazed to see that someone's decision to attend a red carpet event "bare-faced" had the ability to rile so many people, but then I realised the reaction is not so shocking after all - considering how many times have we read about the "bravery" of women who go out "makeup free".

Keys stated that wearing makeup is no longer for her in a Lenny Letter published in May this year:

"Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup.

"What if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it??? These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me.

"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."

The anxiety Keys describes rings true for me too. The chances of me being papped are beyond minuscule, yet I still feel the need to hide behind dark sunglasses if I venture out without at least foundation and mascara, for fear that my unadorned face will offend.

I've long known this thought process is ridiculous, as by the end of the day there is usually very little left of the mascara and foundation applied at 6.30am and yet people don't visibly cower as I walk by - well not noticeably anyway.

Yet, the reaction to Keys stepping out on a red carpet sans lippy brings home the fact that this fear isn't all in women's heads. Certain expectations about how women should present themselves when in public do exist and are rigorously policed by self-appointed makeup wardens.

Further proof of this can be found in a recent study that revealed women who wear makeup to work get paid more than their unmade-up colleagues.

Until we can move beyond this conflation of makeup with looking "red carpet ready" or "professional", we are never going to have true equality.

Wearing makeup should be a choice, not something you feel you have to do to avoid hurtful comments from strangers, or to better your career prospects.

As Keys eloquently puts it herself: "Do you!"

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