Alicia Keys goes makeup-free, does slam-poetry at the VMAs: ugh or amazing?


On a night when it felt like everything was about Beyonce, and only a little bit about Rihanna, is was cute to see other celebrities try to get attention at the 2016 VMAs. I had forgotten that Alicia Keys has been doing the “makeup free on the red carpet” thing. Some people think Alicia’s makeup-less face was/is brave. Some think it’s just blah. She’s a beautiful woman and I don’t wear makeup either, but “not wearing makeup” doesn’t make me morally superior to anyone. It just means I’m lazy. And even I would have probably swiped on a little lipstick for the VMAs, no judgment. (Some people also believe Alicia’s wearing concealer and some light makeup anyway!)

Alicia’s ensemble was Just Cavalli. It seemed kind of bulky for a late-summer awards show, especially when most people were just wearing jumpsuits and simple cocktail dresses. Something nice: the red & black fabric is pretty.

Alicia’s real moment came on stage when she was supposed to be introducing an act, but she took a moment to turn the VMAs into a Slam Poetry Jam. Sunday was the 53rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, so Alicia decided to perform some poetry of her own:

It’s not that she’s annoying, but people this earnest do tend to make me feel uncomfortable. Especially when I know so much about how she got together with her husband. It’s like hearing slam poetry/off-key warbling from LeAnn Rimes.



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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71 Responses to “Alicia Keys goes makeup-free, does slam-poetry at the VMAs: ugh or amazing?”

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  1. Nicole says:

    Loved the sentiment because of the anniversary. And yes my soft spot for Keys dimmed with the drama of how she got with her husband ages ago. But still I liked the poem

  2. lisa2 says:

    She hasn’t been wearing makeup much. I’ve noticed it. She is beautiful and the makeup free shows it. I didn’t watch the show; so will need to see it on the video.

  3. paolanqar says:

    She looks beautiful and her skin looks amazing but I don’t think cameras go well with skin with no make up.
    Maybe she could just wear a little to avoid the bag under her eyes?
    Her skin is flawless and with some good, light, natural makeup she would look incredible.

    • Wren says:

      No no no. You praise her appearance, then follow it up with “but this flaw, you should do something about it”. This is such a common thing done to women. It implies that the subject cannot be entirely beautiful until such criteria are met, and that said woman is somehow failing to meet certain standards.

      Why are eye bags bad? Lots of us have them. I have dark undereye circles that will not be covered unless you cake on stage makeup. So I don’t try to, because they’re a feature of my face. I get the whole “look your best” thing, but my best includes the dark circles, they are part of me looking like myself. I have gotten criticism on them, in the form of helpful suggestions, and incredulous looks when I say I’m not interested in even thinking about them.

  4. Kimma says:

    It’s the “no makeup” makeup look. Maybe even some nose contouring? I don’t care but if you’re going to try to make a point about not wearing makeup, then don’t wear any makeup…

  5. Jasmine Warfield says:

    Its not brave to wear zero makeup when you have the money to go to a dermatologist whenever you want

    • Allie B. says:

      I also don’t think it’s brave. It’s real easy when your brand isn’t your looks, even though she’s beautiful. She’s a true musician. No one really cares that she doesn’t wear make up because she’s artsy.

    • Kimma says:

      Yes, I don’t think people at my work would be commending me if I just started suddenly stopped wearing

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I think it is brave. I don’t think it makes her morally superior, but not to wear makeup to a public event, in an industry that is so obsessed with looks is brave.

      • BeBeA says:

        There is no doubt in my mind that even though beauty isn’t how you make your money there’s a team of people trying to control your look in order to make you more marketable to the people. If she had to stop wearing make up to take control back or conquer something in her own life then more power to her. I would have announced it to the world also just to get in front of all the annoying questions and haters that come from being in the public eye. Having money for skin care does not make her situation any less empowering to her, hell she my have been told for years that she only looks good in make up. Maybe it’s about changing her own mind.

      • Wren says:


      • Tig says:

        people who have gone to voice tapings say during breaks people are putting makeup on her face, so it is just appearing to be makeup free

      • Kitten says:

        ITA, Locke.

  6. Jaana says:

    Alicia has very sensitive skin and makeup irritates it.

  7. Snarkweek says:

    I agree that it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal but I’m not a make up girl. But I do think it is brave when a person has an almost psychological dependence on make up. For some people it is an extreme version of a security blanket and going without it is a big personal step. I’m not going to knock it. Sadly, I have a friend like this. She has absolutely beautiful hair that most women would kill for but she wears hair weaves and extensions 365 days a year no exception. She says she feels ugly and unfeminine without it which I simply cannot understand.

    • Norman Bates' Mother says:

      I can relate to the make-up as a security blanket thing. I hate make-up and I’m lazy, but I would never leave the house without foundation and little color on my otherwise invisible eyebrows and eyelashes – I would feel naked and vulnerable, but I have blemishes, blackheads and pimples on my chin and it makes a ton of difference when I’m make-up free. It’s different for Alicia – her skin is near perfect. If I were her, I would go bare-faced every day.

  8. felixswan2 says:

    Love that she is rocking no makeup on the red carpet. It’s refreshing to me.

  9. Donna Martin says:

    She’s 100% wearing make up. This is more the no make up make up look. I didn’t mind the poem but did seem a little bit desperate. Kind of when *Nsync did that last 10 second performance with JT and JC Chasez tried to drag his part to the very end of the performance on stage.

  10. iqosarhdicjrnsj m says:

    Uuuurrhh to all of it lol hope that will suffice
    I agree w the other posters its not brave, brave would be watching the parent trap knowing how Lindsay turns out aw its making me sad…& also brave hehe

    *Life story time* i had 3 teeth out today so hence the odd movie choice!

  11. QQ says:

    Ima say what I said On Twitter cause it’s still true more so after that ridiculous ass Poem: I CANNOT WITH AK’s SANCTIMONIOUS ASS, like sure Boo, Here is a Cookie you cleared your formerly Terrible skin, and happen to be pretty enough to go out there with concealer and say you dont have any KUDOS

    But stop giving me this Badu Lite, we know and see you coming, We still remember Mashonda’s Open Letter

    • Almondjoy says:

      LOL same thing I said. I’m tired of this faux deep/indspirational thing she tries to do. And MASHONDA’S OPEN LETTER the words are written in my heart and I will never forget.

    • PHAKSI says:

      LMAO :-) AK has always bern sanctimonious, but its especially cloying since she got with Swizz and now this no make up thing

      • QQ says:

        RIGHT?! my Gf Course corrected me last Night she was like No Alicia BEEN insufferable way before she started taking married dudes

    • Michelina says:

      LMAO @ Badu lite.

    • Lama Bean says:

      Yes! Thank you! She has been getting on my nerves for a few years now. I can’t put my finger on it. Self-absorbed? Attention seeking? Grates my nerves.
      Side note:part of why she annoys me is because she reminds me of a close relative that I can’t stand.

    • Nev says:

      Badu lite. I’m crying.

      • lizzie says:

        me too…hahahahahaha. so true. anytime someone grabs a microphone and says ” i have a poem” its like PUMP THE BRAKES! Unless it is open mic at the coffee shop you DO NOT have a poem. Stop.

      • QQ says:

        YOOOO Lizzie that was me: NO STOP STOP! YOU DO NOT Have No Unrequested Spoken Word to say.. Oh God she is free singing?? God No

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I had to google that letter … oh Lord. That is some shady crap right there.

      I don’t know why this look irritates me so much. Is it because there’s a message involved and I’m not sure what it is except it’s sanctimonious as f*ck? What is she saying? Because in that industry, wearing NO makeup (or pretending to) is a statement. I wear more than that to the office.

      • Lady D says:

        I just went and read it, also. I really felt for her. The website I read the letter on dated it 2009. Do you know if the happy new couple are still together and faithful to each other? I don’t know anything personal about any of them.

    • Dani says:

      YESSSS BADU LITE. That’s exactly what she’s trying at. I can’t stand her thirsty ass.

    • Nicole says:

      I thought the same thing about the skin! So it cleared up, oh you want a cookie?

    • ElleBee says:

      OMG Thank you! Also in some “no make up” pictures she has freckles and in these ones she doesn’t. So do freckles come and go or does she wear light makeup? The people demand answers Alicia.

      I swore I was the only one that can’t stand her lately. The no make up trend seems like she is looking down on women who do wear it. I would have been more impressed with this if she were still relevant but no one really cares about her anymore.

  12. Nina says:

    Ehm… no? No make up doesn’t mean I’m lazy… stupidest prejudgement I’ve heard in a long time.
    I hardly ever wear make up. My skin is much healthier the less I use, even with gentle brands. Plus: I LIKE myself without make up. Other like make up and that is equally fine, but these are my reasons why I prefer to go without.

    Nothing to do with laziness… and I’m sure other make up-nudies have a variety of reasons why they go topless too.

    • Wren says:

      I don’t wear makeup either and I have many reasons. Being lazy is one of them. I’m also intolerant of anything that has to be fussed with or maintained throughout the day. I’ve got far better things to do than worry about smudged makeup. I also hate how it rubs off on everything and if you have to wear lab goggles (as I do), it sucks. I let someone borrow my goggles once and was steaming mad when she returned them covered in her sparkley bronzer whatever.

      And finally, I’m so over the idea that women aren’t good enough as they are, that this enhancement of features is somehow required. No, eff that. My looks are great and the coloring nature gave me is beautiful.

      • A. Key says:

        Yep, women are sadly never good enough but men are always accepted no matter what they look like.

      • noodle says:

        it’s funny how in animal world the males are always the pretty looking ones whereas females are all so plain and unnoticeable. But in human world women have to be the primping preening ones and men can be absolutely the worst.

        I also don’t wear make up. but i’m lazy and simple in my routines – shower and oil. the end.
        couldn’t be bothered with the poem. don’t care for her that much.

      • Mae says:

        Samesies. Especially agree with the last paragraph. How is being made-up the default, so that it has to be justified if you forgo? Just no. My bare face is perfectly fine, and if men aren’t required to wear it then I don’t see why my lady face should require it.

    • Stephanie says:

      Kaiser meant she, specifically, was being lazy by not wearing makeup. She didn’t say anyone else who doesn’t was being lazy.

    • Solanacaea (Nighty) says:

      I’m allergic to make up, wearing it all day long is an invitation to eczemas… I’m also allergic to nail polisher and jewellery that isn’t gold or silver… So I wear none of those. When I was younger, I used to wear make up even to just go to the supermarket, now, not even to work… And I still get compliments on how I look, people compliment me on the hair, the clothes, the shoes…

  13. Katie says:

    I find the whole “no make up” make up thing tedious. It’s not honest if celebs are trying to convince women to liberate themselves from the expectations of looking a certain way. Also I know many women who just don’t wear make up and they don’t care what anyone thinks!
    It is fairly brave considering the obsession entertainment has with looks. I’ll give Alicia that.
    I’ll refrain from comment on the beat poetry.

  14. Common Sense says:

    I have never been into makeup, I don’t wear it at all. The one I did I felt so uncomfortable, plus I have sensitive skin and a boat-load of allergies. luckily I work at a museum and looks are not important; there is no dress code.

  15. Jayna says:

    Alicia is my favorite female artist, a true musician and songwriter. I loved her gown.

  16. Sasha says:

    I didn’t watch but on the pictures she looks the most content and happiest of them all and that is beautiful. Everyone else looks so try hard in comparison.
    Love her dress too.

  17. Kk says:

    She is sanctimonious, but it is refreshing (almost visually shocking) to see a woman on the red carpet without makeup (or much makeup, I don’t care if she’s wearing concealer or not; its minimal). I like it. Alessia cara I think was also wearing minimal makeup.

  18. Stephanie says:

    She is absolutely wearing makeup. She has really bad acne and has her whole life. Even if she was having a great skin day, you’d see the scars left from a lifetime of severe acne.

    Anywho, her makeup free movement pisses me off. She doesn’t present it as a personal journey for herself. She presents like all women who wear makeup have self esteem issues. That’s simply not the case.

  19. A. Key says:

    So not wearing makeup has become a brave thing to do???? What?? What kind of world do we live in?
    I know girls who never wear makeup and girls who I’ve never seen without makeup, neither are brave people believe me.
    Damn this day and age is just insane

  20. Mika says:

    So pretentious. She reeks of “oh god these women with all their fake lashes, highlighted n contoured face strutting on the red carpet…look at me i’m absolutely genuine n pure, i’m nothing like them!!!!111!1″ She’s always seemed harmless to me but she’s being annoying af since she started the “no makeup on the red carpet” schtick because she obviously has makeup on!

    • Cali says:

      She became annoying when she slept with a married man and even more annoying now that she’s trying to “empower” us peasant women who cover our faces. I think she looks stupid and worn without her make-up, rightfully so.

      • Mika says:

        Ugh YES. So much for her “natural beauty” act. Now that I’ve read Mashonda’s open letter to her and boy now I hate her so much more. It makes my blood boil when some people are still defending Alicia with “well you can’t control who you fall in love with!” like yeah of course you can! The moment you start having feelings for a married person, you should have smacked yourself and stop those feelings before it escalates to “love”. Do not pursue him/her. Period.

  21. CornyBlue says:

    I think its good she is not wearing any makeup . More and more people wearing no makeup normalizes makeup less women and I am all for that.

  22. Wren33 says:

    I like the no-makeup look on her, regardless of the politics. I am surprised that people think she is wearing foundation. In the closeup you can see lots of freckles and uneven skin tone. But who knows. Maybe she has a tinted moisturizer or something.

  23. Laura says:

    Can we forget the makeup issue and focus on what the woman is saying? Why the focus on superficial? Alicia is brave and creative!

  24. Aren says:

    I love slam poetry so I thought I should check it out, then I read on the comments about ‘Mashonda’s Open Letter to Alicia Keys”, googled it, and now I no longer want to support anything by Alicia.

  25. Ann says:

    I think most women look silly with makeup on.

  26. Marianne says:

    A lot of women don’t wear makeup everyday. However, I think considering the industry she’s in, it is brave.

  27. Keats says:

    If not wearing makeup is brave then consider me Merida (esp since I do not have the beautiful even skin tone of Alicia Keys and everyone at work constantly asks if I’m tired…)

  28. Sunshine Gold says:

    I don’t get this campaign she’s on. Makeup is the least of the world’s problems.

  29. stinky says:

    her man aint gonna stick around for this mumu-mother-earth routine, know this. she wanted him real bad tho.