Why I am not buying into this #NoMakeup thing


Alicia Keys, still beautiful beneath her beautiful.

Grammy award winner Alicia Keys recently discovered she feels free and liberated without makeup, so much so that she is starting a hashtag movement to encourage women to go makeup free. But, I wasn’t sold. The news spawned an interesting and lively debate on a friends’ Facebook page  where I got to piously use the word ‘vilify’(sorry Njoks).

So granted, Alicia Keys is in an industry that judges women based on the appearance, an industry that uses ‘celebs without makeup’ articles as click bait to be gleefully gobbled by sadistic fans who enjoy the knowledge that beneath the carefully crafted celebrity look is a human with bad hair days and PMS pimples. They will be sadly disappointed, Alicia Keys’ makeup free and professionally shot pictures show her fresh faced with cute freckles (see above).

The announcement attracted articles on Huffington Post, CNN and BBC. Yes, this is how amazing it is to go without makeup in 2016. Coincidentally, the In Common singer will also be releasing her latest album, so of course this is also a great way to draw some extra media milage especially at a time when fellow female singers are releasing monster jams. Think Adelle’s Hello, Beyoncés entire Lemonade and Rihanna’s  Work — which topped the Billboard charts for all of nine weeks and brought solo butterfly sessions in front of mirrors back.


Rihanna working hard on that Butterfly. (Source)

While I do know that addiction to makeup can be real, I also know far more regular people who eschew it for the natural look. Maybe this is just a thing many Kenyan women do. I can’t help but think of those strikingly beautiful pictures of Turkana women in traditional garb with no makeup. People have been going without makeup for centuries, the #nomakeup has also been used countless times on Instagram but it seems all it takes is a celebrity to say ‘me too’ and suddenly it is viewed as groundbreaking and trail blazing. One news company even called it a ‘revolution’ — proof of the pervasiveness of celebrity culture. Question, does it take an endorsement from Alicia Keys for one to go makeup free?


Turkana women, make up free and proud. Picture by Roberto Cornacchia (source)

Let me state for the record that I am very makeup challenged. Whenever I start applying eyeliner the ominous opening bars of that Desiigner song start playing in my head…Panda… Panda…Panda...and after viewing the shaky results which indeed make me look Kungu Fu Pandaish, I decide to just chuck the whole thing with a cotton ball and call it a day. I also know that it’s not impossible to leave the house with just lip balm and a prayer. It can be done and it does not need a PSA.


Me after I am done applying eyeliner  (Source)

While many people will celebrate Alicia Key’s move and say they also feel liberated and that it brings attention to the fact that women are judged by appearance, it still won’t change the fact that women are still judged by their appearance. I think it will take a lot more than going makeup free to change how society looks at and perceives women. I also hope it won’t be used as an excuse to criticise and judge those who do enjoy their fleeked brows and strobed cheeks, just let them be. And while others would argue that women spend too much on makeup, they should note  that it is also one of the industries where women have  been immensely successful in building brands and businesses think Toni Ko’s NYX and Suzie Wokabi’s Suzie Beauty.

To be honest, I’d rather celebrate Alicia Keys philanthropy with the Keep A Child Alive foundation, her work creating awareness about HIV and AIDs and of course the fact that she is actually just a dope artist, with or without makeup.

For more of Roberto Cornacchia’s photography visit




4 thoughts on “Why I am not buying into this #NoMakeup thing

  1. I read this last night and decided to sleep on it. I think we have to look at this situation in context of it’s environment and culture. From where she’s sitting, she’s undergone a journey that has brought her to this point. Will it boost her album sales? Perhaps. But was that her initial intention…I doubt it.

    We all go through things in life that lead us to a point in our lives; and at that point, once we make that self discovery things open up for us. I am not sure what your views on #Lemonade were but I’d imagine there was some admiration for #QueenBey journey to that point. Whether Jay Z cheated on her or not or whether it broke Tidal and the internet… there is a journey she went through as a woman and wife…she decided to share it; and for that most have applauded her.

    But we now don’t do the same for someone else’s journey just because it’s not broken the internet or because cultures outside of the US have lived without make up all these years? It’s like saying because black people die in Africa every day…the #BlackLiveMatter campaign in US isn’t valid…they are making a much ado about nothing. Wrong. Her journey isn’t ours, and ours isn’t hers… so in her journey let’s support a fellow woman for a self discovery that she has made.

    My personal self discovery is that I am not supposed to take dairy, it’s taken me 30+ years to find this out, I am applauding myself everyday; and those around me are cheering me on. If by chance I happen to open a dairy free restaurant would you say that I announced my dairy free lifestyle to boost sales at the said restaurant?

    Only history will tell us what impact this made on record sales and young girl’s self esteems. Until then… kudos to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Wambui, as usual your commentary is always on point. For me it is the commodification of this journey that turns me off as well as the celebrity culture that deems any new ‘discovery’ a celebrity makes a revolution. I felt the same way about Beyoncé and her vegan announcement. Kudos to both of them, their journeys and how far they have come but I’d rather have my difference of opinion on this and hold my applause. Also note, I have written this with a touch of humour, it’s not a war on Ms Keys :-).


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