If you’ve been on social media at all recently, you’ll have seen plenty on the VMAs. In particular, the fact that Alicia Keys and Alessia Cara both appeared on the red carpet sans makeup. Both singers performed at the MTV Video Music Awards, each without a swab of makeup, yet they managed to captivate audiences and news outlets around the world. 

This publicity marks the most recent addition to the #nomakeup trend, a movement which is gaining power and momentum as support for it grows. It shot to fame in May following Alicia Keys’ Lenny Letter, and since then has trended on Twitter, and become one of the most discussed hashtags of 2016. Dozens of other celebrities – including Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Laverne Cox – have followed Keys’ trend, posting their own #nomakeup selfies, but few have gone as far as Cara and Keys by appearing makeup-free at a major awards show.

“This hashtag represents women breaking free from the idea that they have to hide themselves behind a mask, which some see as not only hiding their natural complexion, but also much of that which makes up their entire identity”

The #nomakeup hashtag is more than just a trend. It marks the start of a revolution, where women are claiming back their own natural beauty, and are refusing to meet society’s standards of perfection. This hashtag represents women breaking free from the idea that they have to hide themselves behind a mask, which some see as not only hiding their natural complexion, but also much of that which makes up their entire identity. As Alicia put it in her Lenny letter: “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”.

The #nomakeup hashtag is, in fact, a metaphor for women taking back what is both literally and figuratively theirs – seizing ownership of their own identities and redefining modern definitions of beauty. In the words of Alessia Cara, speaking in Glamour’s September Issue: “There isn’t one way to look beautiful—you are beautiful, and it’s the world that needs to change”.

Now, this isn’t to say that makeup is bad, and that going barefaced is the only way to be beautiful anymore; the point of #nomakeup is to say that we now have the choice to ditch the foundation and eyeliner, and that we can be beautiful with or without makeup. We can now define and embrace our own ideas and concepts of beauty; we don’t have to rely on the approval of those around us anymore. At the end of the day, what matters? Looking good for cameras or embracing one’s natural beauty and feeling good in one’s own skin, with or without makeup?

“We can now define and embrace our own ideas and concepts of beauty; we don’t have to rely on the approval of those around us anymore”

The #nomakeup trend is yet another example of people realising that you don’t have to meet society’s expectations in order to be considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘perfect’, and is gaining some serious momentum. Individuals like Keys and Cara have helped to destroy that idea that you have to wear makeup in order to slay on a red carpet – or in life in general – and I can only hope that others will follow their lead and embrace going barefaced. I can only hope that this trend will continue to gain momentum and support, and in the words of Alicia Keys: “I hope to God it’s a revolution”.

Ellen Smithies

Photo Credit Ulisse Albiati via Flickr

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