The Grammy winner's poignant essay about self-image was published in feminist newsletter Lenny

By Andrea Park
Updated May 31, 2016 03:35 PM
Credit: RCA Records

Alicia Keys isn’t going to hide her natural beauty any longer.

The Grammy winner penned an essay for Tuesday’s issue of feminist newsletter Lenny in which she talks about learning to set aside societal standards of beauty in favor of letting her true self shine through.

Keys, 35, begins the essay by talking about those moments “where some piece of you realizes that to fit in or be thought of as beautiful, you have to cover up to be a bit closer to perfect.”

The “Girl on Fire” singer discusses the difficult transition she underwent as she moved from the “tough” streets of New York to the “harsh, judgmental world of entertainment.”

“I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon. Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the ‘they’s’ would accept me,” Keys writes.

But as she began to work on her upcoming album, Keys spent a lot of time thinking about the impossible standards of beauty and perfection that hold women back.

“Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of things that I was sick of. And one was how much women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect,” she writes. “One of the many things I was tired of was the constant judgment of women.”

Keys adds: “All of it is so frustrating and so freakin’ impossible.”

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The singer explains how she took up meditation in order to overcome her “insecure, superficial, but honest” fear of being photographed without makeup, and how this insecurity was ultimately put to the test when photographer Paola Kudacki asked to shoot Keys makeup-free for her album artwork.

“Instantly, I became a bit nervous and slightly uncomfortable. My face was totally raw. I had on a sweatshirt!” Keys writes, but once Kudacki began the shoot, “a bunch of invisible magic” was in the air.

“I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt,” Keys says. “I felt powerful because my initial intentions realized themselves. My desire to listen to myself, to tear down the walls I built over all those years, to be full of purpose, and to be myself!”

She continues: “I hope to God it’s a revolution. ‘Cause 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.”