Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake Nail It with These Comments About the ‘Unrealistic Standard’ of Beauty

In the first-ever songwriter roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Sting and Tori Amos all gather to discuss their craft. While most of the conversation was centered around music and their respective careers, Keys and Timberlake basically hit the nail on the head when it came time to talk about gender bias and how woman are perceived in the industry.

Explaining her choice to show up to the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards wearing absolutely no makeup, Keys explained that there’s a lot of pressure on women to look beautiful all the time.

“This was just a personal thing that I was exploring and expressing as I’m growing as a woman. But the most important thing about it is that for women, there is a really ridiculously high, unrealistic standard of what beauty is, and it’s heavy,” she said. “It’s heavy, it’s hard. We’re so brainwashed even as women that it gets confusing.”

“The most important thing, obviously, is that you honor yourself and understand what is important to you as a person, and that has nothing to do with makeup — wear it, don’t wear it,” she continued. “Do what feels good to you as a woman, as a human being. Express yourself. And don’t judge each other so much. Whatever this person chooses, that’s beautiful, too.”

Timberlake, who has two goddaughters, added that he signed onto his latest movies, Trolls, when he found out that there was a strong female role model in the animated kids flick.

“I looked at the story and I’m like, ‘Wait, hold on, we have a female protagonist that has a belly, crazy hair’ — and thinking about my two goddaughters and what women must go through from such a young age of being ashamed of their body and their appearance,” he said. “For young females to get to see that, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s not frivolous at all. That’s so important.’ And what a cool way into getting them into the theater — ‘I wanna be like Princess Poppy, not Barbie.'”

However, all six musicians agreed that the greatest achievement is to have their music impact people on a personal level.

“The biggest compliment I receive as a songwriter is when someone says, ‘I fell in love to one of your songs,’ or ‘When we brought our first kid home, your song was on the radio,’ or ‘We buried Uncle Charlie with one of your songs,'” Sting said. “Basically by accident creating the soundtrack for people’s emotional lives, that is a huge privilege.”

“I get a lot of that with ‘Ordinary People.’ That it saved their marriage,” Legend shared. “And I was like, how is that even possible? How can this song mean that much? But it does mean that to some people. That’s what we’re able to do as songwriters. It’s a beautiful gift.”

The full roundtable will air on SundanceTV on Feb. 26, 2017.