Alicia Keys has opened up about overcoming a lifetime of insecurities about her appearance.
The 35-year-old singer penned a heartfelt essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter this week, in which she documented her difficult journey to self-acceptance, from hiding frizzy hair in a tight ponytail as a second-grader, to feeling pressured to wear makeup in junior high.
The GRAMMY winner, who will join Miley Cyrus as a coach on the next season of The Voice, confessed that her insecurities were only heightened when she found fame.
“I remember when I first started to be in the public eye. Oh my gawd!” she wrote. “Everyone had something to say. ‘She’s so hard, she acts like a boy, she must be gay, she should be more feminine!’ In the streets of New York you had to be tough, you HAD to be hard, people needed to know that you weren’t scared to fight!”
“But this wasn’t the streets of New York,” she added. “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 singer shared that before starting work on her new album, she wrote a list of everything she was sick of, including females being “brainwashed” into feeling like they must look skinny and perfect.
While exploring the constant judgement faced by women, Keys penned the track, “When A Girl Can’t Be Herself,” and admits she started to feel like she was “not good enough for the world to see”.
“This started manifesting on many levels, and it was not healthy,” she continued in her essay. “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.”
The mom-of-two found peace with her struggles after discovering meditation and making a promise to herself that she would allow her “real self” to shine.
Her most enlightening moment came when she walked into a photo shoot, makeup free and fresh from a workout, and reluctantly allowed the photographer to begin taking snaps.
“I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt,” she concluded. “I felt powerful because my initial intentions realized themselves. My desire to listen to myself, to tear down the walls I built over all those years, to be full of purpose, and to be myself! The universe was listening to those things I’d promised myself, or maybe I was just finally listening to the universe, but however it goes, that’s how this whole #nomakeup thing began. Once the photo I took with Paola came out as the artwork for my new song ‘In Common,’ it was that truth that resonated with others who posted #nomakeup selfies in response to this real and raw me.
“I hope to God it’s a revolution. ‘Cause 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.”
See what Miley Cyrus has to say about Keys joining The Voice in the video below.