Alicia Keys' Refusal To Wear Makeup Was More Controversial Than We Realized

While Alicia Keys has had some controversial moments over the years, her decision to go makeup free is an unexpected addition to the list. Keys explained why she stopped wearing cosmetics in 2016 by penning a Lenny Letter essay that revealed how her movement began when a photographer encouraged her to do a "totally raw" album photoshoot on a whim. "I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt," Keys wrote.

To be accurate, the singer hasn't completely abandoned cosmetics since her self-loving journey started. She returned to full makeup looks in 2023 and told Vogue, "I'm at a point in my journey now where I'm able to see [and to] own my power." Even so, the bare-faced look received mixed reactions from the public when it debuted, with some loving the sentiment behind the choice while others criticized the star. It also reportedly caused some drama behind-the-scenes of "The Voice." 

Keys served as a judge on the competition show during Seasons 11, 12, 14 and 21, with Season 11 marking the beginning of her no-makeup journey. You might think that taking makeup out of the production equation might simplify things on Keys' part, but an insider close to the series explained to OK! Magazine that wasn't the case. The source said, "Alicia is annoying everyone with her whole makeup thing because it really has an impact on the entire production."

Alicia Keys' refusal to wear makeup caused drama on The Voice

There are several secrets about "The Voice" that audiences aren't supposed to know, but the behind-the-scenes reaction to Alicia Keys' no-makeup movement quickly spilled out in the press. During Season 11 of the performance-based show, which aired in 2016, Keys served as a judge alongside Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Miley Cyrus. A series insider explained that the show had to make behind-the-scenes adjustments to accommodate the "If I Ain't Got You" singer's new look.

"She looks washed out and the camera and lighting operators need to adjust everything just for her," the source told OK! Magazine. While you might think that going makeup-free in front of the camera wouldn't be a problem, there's a reason that actors, including men, wear some basic cosmetics during their screen time. As public speaking coach TJ Walker explained to Howcast, "You may say 'I look fine in general,' but the video camera lights will magnify any imperfections."

On top of creating a few extra obstacles, Keys' attitude regarding her new look seemed to rub some people the wrong way. "Alicia is acting like she is a special judge and that everyone needs to cater to her and it is just not tolerable," the insider said. There were brief rumors of a feud between Cyrus and Keys, which may have been heightened by the New York native's unique makeup situation, but both judges returned to the show in later seasons.

Alicia Keys' no-makeup look might not be as raw as we thought

The stunning transformation of Alicia Keys made a big statement when she started appearing publicly without cosmetics, but the truth behind her no-makeup look might be more complicated than it seems. During an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" in March 2017, fellow "The Voice" judge Adam Levine revealed that he spotted his co-star applying some beauty products backstage. 

"She was putting on a little bit of makeup," Levine said. "And I was like, 'Oh yeah, I thought Alicia doesn't wear makeup.' And she's like, 'I do what the f*** I want.' And I'm like, 'I love you so much.'" The exchange was clearly lighthearted, with the Maroon 5 singer having nothing but respect for Keys' confident response. The Levine anecdote tipped off the public that Keys' bare-faced look wasn't as effortless as it seemed, but her makeup artist had already confirmed as much a few months earlier.

"Compared to the world of makeup, there is minimal [on Keys]," Dotti told W Magazine in October 2016. "She's already powerful to look at, with those amazing Cleopatra-shaped eyes, and now we get to see them!" Dotti went on to explain that she keeps it natural by lightly filling in Keys' brows, accentuating her freckles, and controlling shine with a mattifier. While we love the self-loving sentiment behind Alicia Keys' barefaced movement, it's important to note that the celeb has some significant resources to make her "no-makeup" look stand out.