It wasn't what she wore to the Video Music Awards that had tongues wagging, it's what she didn't wear. No, I'm not talking about Alicia Keys' designer dress. I'm talking about the fact that the Grammy-winning singer had the barefaced cheek to attend an award ceremony without makeup.
You heard. She stepped on to the red carpet sans war paint. Not flick of mascara, no a hint of concealer.
In the music industry, that is an act of true rebellion and badassery, the likes of which Rhianna or Gaga could never muster.
For Keys, the disenchantment has been a long time brewing. She has been rallying against the pressures women face, and made the case for natural beauty not so long ago in a Lenny essay:
"One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women," wrote Keys. "The constant stereotyping through every medium that makes us feel like being a normal size is not normal, and heaven forbid if you're plus-size. Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked."
"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."
And women all over the place nodded and applauded. But then Keys went took it to the nth - she went "naked" at an awards ceremony - and many of the same cheering women could no longer get behind her.
Alicia Keys looks like she just rolled out of bed.— Inga (@sauvignonelle) August 29, 2016
Enough is enough, girl. It's okay to wear makeup for special occasions. Lol #VMAs
Even someone as beautiful as Alicia Keys was told in no uncertain terms: for mercy's sake, woman, put on some makeup! A dash of lipstick, at the very least. Because come on, it's the VMAs and heaven forbid a woman should stroll the red carpet without putting her face on.
All these people - men and women alike - rushing Twitter to denounce her look maybe didn't realize they were further proving her point. That award shows aren't about dresses and makeup and cosplay. Maybe, just maybe, they are about artists and the music they make. At least they should be.