NBCUniversal 2016 Upfront

I grew up in Ohio, and their summers are some of the hottest and stickiest days you can come by. The humidity is overbearing and it can feel like you’re walking through a hot-air shower you never asked for. The heat lingers through the night as if the moon were emitting heat.

And here I was, in the thick of a sun-drenched day, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeve shirt.

As a young girl suffering from chronic eczema, summers were the ultimate source of anxiety because my skin was more exposed. 

Having scratched my legs endlessly during bouts of flare-ups, I was left scarred and depigmented. The steroid cremes I used left my chocolate skin lighter than the rest of my body. And people definitely noticed.

I remember one girl pointing out my “ugly-spotted legs” in an argument and people rudely staring at them when I wore a dress or shorts. And if someone hadn’t noticed, I was thinking about it. So I usually opted for long sleeves and long pants all summer long, and, needless to say, because of the heat, I was absolutely miserable.

My awakening came when my best friend took me to a Macy’s and we stumbled upon Dermablend, a body coverage makeup brand. I remember my 15-year-old self being like, “Wait, they make makeup for legs?”

I first purchased a batch of their makeup in the color “Deep” almost 11 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Suddenly, I was a girl running through the park uninhibited. I was a girl wearing a knee-length skirt and heels without feeling embarrassed. I was a girl who didn’t have to think about the scars on my legs.

You see, makeup is not always about vanity or glam, sometimes it’s about survival, and sometimes it’s just about your God-given right to exist how you please.

So when Alicia Keys’ no makeup manifesto hit the internet, my knee-jerk reaction was filled with the spirit of Flavia Dzodan, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!”

I found Alicia’s public unveiling painfully anticlimatic.

Here she was, showing me the “finished” product of her journey – free from cystic pimples and acne scars (she was a Proactiv ambassador, after all) and lightly freckled without the wear and tear of bags under her eyes or the weight of dark circles.

And I was supposed to feel a goddamn revolution rising in my bones from her new appearance? Uh uh. Not to mention her privilege of being a light-skin woman. I’m not denying the pain in privilege, but I’m also saying “uncovering” looks a lot different for a woman who basically looks like a girl-next-door version of an Instagram model.

So I had to ask: Where was my representation in this “imperfect” perfection?

Now, I’m not here to knock her progression. If Alicia is in a place where she feels the freedom to have a fresh face, kudos to her. All of our journeys to self-love are paved so differently, and I can never shame another woman for her ‘aha’ moment.

But I want to extinguish the conversation that says makeup is rooted in superficiality. Just like any other outward expression (that includes hair, nails, clothes, piercings, tattoos), makeup can be another vessel to feel more connected to yourself, and therefore feel more free.

It’s not always about covering up, sometimes it’s about unveiling. And how I choose to unveil that part of myself is ultimately up to me.

In my particular case, it meant running around in the summer with my legs as naked and bare as the day I was born.

And if that ain’t freedom, I don’t know what is.



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Alicia Keys’ ‘No Makeup’ Movement Is Not My Movement, And Here’s Why  was originally published on