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'Honestly beautiful': Alicia Keys opens up about makeup-free photos in new essay

Alicia Keys didn't originally intend to go makeup-free for her album artwork.

She'd just arrived at the photo studio from the gym and was prepared to get her hair and makeup done, but when photographer Paola Kudacki saw her, she urged the 35-year-old Grammy winner to consider shooting as is.

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Alicia Keys on going makeup-free, life: 'I just want to be honest with myself'

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Alicia Keys on going makeup-free, life: 'I just want to be honest with myself'

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Keys hesitated ... to say the least. "Now? Like right now? I want to be real, but this might be too real!”

A photo posted by Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys) on

She explained how she initially felt about the shoot in an essay for Lenny Letter. “My face was totally raw. I had on a sweatshirt! As far as I was concerned, this was my quick run-to-the-shoot-so-I-can-get-ready look, not the actual photo-shoot look,” she wrote.

Lucky for her and for all of us, she eventually obliged and went on to pen the essay about just why the shoot meant so much to her.

“I’m so moved by the connection we've shared and support I’ve received since sharing my Lenny Letter,” she told TODAY. "I believe this is the time of the woman. The definitive moment when we get to uncover the ideals that have been placed upon us and be who we are, as we are, in all of our beauty, depth and complexity. For me, not wearing much makeup is a metaphor for that."

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In a paragraph just as soul-baring as many of the lyrics to her popular songs, Keys shares the stress she's felt over the years to appear "perfect."

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Alicia Keys: Going makeup-free is a metaphor for finding yourself

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Alicia Keys: Going makeup-free is a metaphor for finding yourself

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“I started, more than ever, to become a chameleon," she wrote of the increasing pressure to look the part as she entered the music industry. "Never fully being who I was, but constantly changing so all the ‘they’s’ would accept me.”

Now, she's grateful she went for the no-makeup look. It was "the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful" she ever felt. (Clearly, her husband Swizz Beatz agreed wholeheartedly.)

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"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."

You go, Alicia. We're looking forward to more #makeupfree selfies from you and others, too.

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