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Alicia Keys's Rejection of Makeup Is Not a Moral Decision

Don't Get Confused: Alicia Keys' Rejection of Makeup Is Not A Moral Decision

Makeup is not the enemy -- ask Rachel Maddow, Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox, and even Neil Patrick Harris.

Alicia Keys is continuing to make headlines for refusing to wear makeup, starting what some consider to be a revolution. The hashtag #nomakeup is exploding, and she's considered to be in the forefront of this "revolution," though many women don't regularly wear makeup.

The fact that Keys is being either applauded for facing a camera sans foundation or attacked for her refusal to conform says less about makeup than it does about the problem our culture has with women making their own decisions.

Keys's husband, Swizz Beatz, may have said it best when he defended his wife by stating, "Somebody sitting home mad because somebody didn't wear makeup on their face ... not your face," he said. "You can do whatever you want to do. She didn't tell y'all to wear no makeup. She's just not vibing with the makeup all the way 100 percent."

Wearing makeup is not a moral decision, it's a personal one. Men and women alike should have the freedom to decide whether or not to wear makeup and shouldn't be looked down upon or applauded for either choice.

Some people are writing that Alicia Keys is using the privilege of her beauty to make women who do wear makeup feel bad about themselves, which is as ridiculous as calling her decision brave. Publications are offering tutorials on how to get Keys's look using ... makeup.

It may be unusual to see women on TV without makeup, as more butch-presenting hosts, including Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres (who is herself a spokeswoman for CoverGirl), are rarely seen on-screen without it. However, the idea that makeup is only for women is as silly as assuming that every woman except Alicia Keys spends all day in foundation.

Plenty of men wear makeup. Actors on stage wear makeup. YouTube tutorials abound with tips on how transgender women may best contour their faces. There are entire classes devoted to applying various makeup effects used to create illusion long before CGI. Applying makeup is one of the most amazing, transformative, beautiful things I have ever participated in. I'm not talking transformative as in before and after pictures, I'm talking about turning a human into a peacock or a werewolf. Makeup is not just for weddings or TV appearances; it's painting the body, it's a tool of reinvention or self-affirmation.

In writing her essay about not wearing makeup for Lenny magazine, what Alicia Keys was trying to say was that she doesn't feel that women and girls should feel forced to wear makeup. That's a sentiment everyone can agree with. Also true: YouTube makeup tutorials are hugely popular and many teens love lipstick.

If Alicia Keys never felt that kind of love for makeup, more power to her to live her dream of waking up and walking out the door without sitting in front of a mirror for hours. However, to assume that that same freedom is not felt by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, who created her own cosmetics line, is denying women's autonomy and assuming every woman who loves makeup is a victim rather than someone who simply enjoys putting on brightly colored lipstick.

ELIZABETH DALEY is an Advocate contributor covering feminism. You can find her on Twitter @FakePretty

Watch Alicia Keys help Today regulars take off their makeup.

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Elizabeth Daley