Stern was presumably referring to the viral reaction that stemmed from an essay Keys penned for Lenny Letter entitled, “Time to Uncover.” In the essay, Keys writes about making the conscious decision to stop caring what other people think and start going bare-faced more often, or whenever the fancy strikes.
“Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the things that I was sick of,” Keys writes. “And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect.” She goes on describe how she felt when she was photographed makeup-free for the first time: “I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt…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.”
So yes, if writing an essay with a powerful message about chipping away at female beauty standards after decades in the spotlight is considered “making a big deal about not wearing makeup,” then let’s move on to Levine’s response:
“I joked around with her — she’s, by the way, so great — she was putting on a little bit of makeup and I was like, ‘Oh, I thought Alicia doesn’t wear makeup,’ and she was like, ‘I do what the fuck I want.’”
Jezebel writer Kara Brown applauds Levine for calling Keys out: “I now HEARTILY agree with Adam Levine for pointing out that Alicia Keys’ “no makeup” look does, in fact, involve makeup…If you don’t want people pointing out your hypocrisy, maybe don’t run around acting like you’re not wearing makeup and then allow your makeup artist to give interviews detailing the makeup you put on your face.”
But hold on a second. Let’s be very clear: nowhere in Keys’ Lenny essay did she proclaim, I WILL NEVER TOUCH A DROP OF FOUNDATION AGAIN — NAY, NOT EVEN A DOT OF EYELINER NOR A SCHMEAR OF CHAPSTICK. She didn’t sign a government contract or make an unbreakable vow with Severus Snape. She merely expressed a desire to be a little less hard on herself and to stop buying into “a picture of what others seem to see as perfection.”
And beyond that, maybe two pesky white men should generally refrain from giving a woman of color flack about whether or not she’s wearing makeup on a given day? Just a suggestion.
Because sometimes Alicia keys wears makeup. And sometimes she doesn’t. Frankly I wouldn’t give a flying fig if she left her house in full Thom Browne clown makeup because it’s her body and her choice and them’s the rules.
In the next segment of their interview, Stern and Levine go on to discuss how much Behati Prinsloo’s name (as in Victoria’s Secret model and Levine’s wife) sounds like “hottie,” but that’s a think piece for another time.
Photo by NBC via Getty Images.