Recently, singer Alicia Keys has been all over the Internet, receiving praise for her support of the #NoMakeUp Movement. Her efforts to empower women to be “natural” has taken off in circles across the Web. Meanwhile, rapper Lil Mama posted a video of herself in Cancun wearing natural hair braids and a fresh, makeup free face. What happened? Quite the opposite reaction Keys received. So, who exactly gets to be “make-up free” in this movement?

Last month, Alicia Keys spoke to the team of Lenny Letter to discuss how difficult it can be for women to constantly have to try to conform to the beauty standards of the mainstream. In the letter, she explains the anxiety she would feel when travelling in public without makeup on. It was then that she started to make changes for herself, reducing the amount of makeup she wore and loving her own skin. Luckily, she has gotten positive feedback on her decision.

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Lil’ Mama seems to have been following in Keys’ footsteps when she post a video of herself, makeup free, natural hair, and clearly happy, on the Internet. Twitter users then proceeded to call her ugly, misgender her, compare her to animals, and other vitriolic responses.


This issue raises important questions about how traditional beauty standards, those which designate lighter-skinned or White, petite, symmetrically featured women as the ideal, permeate even natural movements. It seems that even in cases when women are being encouraged to embrace their own beauty, hair, and skin, there are hierarchical judgement about who exactly is allowed to participate.

Lil Mama took to Instagram to respond to her haters with this post.


Frankly, both Alicia Keys and Lil Mama are beautiful women, whether they choose to rock makeup and weaves or no makeup, plaits, or hair wraps. The real issue here is the fact that many people (usually men) think it their place to rank, scrutinize, judge, and “mansplain” women’s beauty choices. This is an especially serious issue for Black women who are darker complected.

In a week where the newly crowned Miss USA, is a dark-skinned Black woman named Deshauna Barber from Washington DC, this seems like an odd step backwards. Hopefully, as more and more people challenge these issues of colorism in Black communities, it will soon be dismantled altogether.


Photo credit: Lil’ Mama Instagram