Getting Ready With Alicia Keys at the VMAs

Getting Ready With Alicia Keys at the VMAs

Story by Justin Moran / Photography by Ramon Rivas

Alicia Keys had the big night at the 2021 VMAs, where the music legend debuted her new single, "LALA," alongside collaborator Swae Lee. In a tribute to New York City, Keys called on viewers to celebrate its "magic and strength" during a mashup of her latest sultry track and the Big Apple anthem, "Empire State of Mind," all while wearing a gold sequin gown made custom by Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera and Wempe earrings (courtesy of stylists Jason Bolden and John Mumblo).

Every major live performance calls for a full glam overhaul, and Keys' team set her up for success, with hair by Nai'Vasha Grace and makeup by Tasha Brown. She wore her hair pulled back in a long chunky braid, decorated with golden butterflies to match her dress and natural glowing makeup that relied heavily on proper skin preparation for Keys to feel "completely herself."

"[Keys Soulcare] Aura Mist was applied to wet skin to create calming environment," Brown tells PAPER of her VMAs skincare routine. "I then applied a heavy dose of Keys Soulcare Comforting Balm on [Alicia's] lips to create a mask. Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream [goes] on cheeks, lips and forehead, then [I] steamed the face for five minutes for a natural from within glow."

Brown says she was "inspired by peach tones that flow beautifully with gold," so decided to brighten the center of Keys' face with Chanel Healthy Glow Sheer Colour Stick in No.22 on her cheeks and eyelids, with a dab of Chanel Rouge Coco Flash in Sunbeam on her lips. "I opened up the makeup to be more blendable with [Keys Soulcare] Aura Mist," she adds.

For Keys' eyes, Brown wanted to give them a "strong performance, budge-proof gold liner" using Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner in Or Antique. The top of her cheekbones were finished with Chanel Les Beige Highlighting Fluid in Sunkissed to "let the skin mimic the shine of the dress," which Brown also applied to Keys' hands "to highlight fingers as they danced across piano keys."

Watch Alicia Keys and Swae Lee perform "LALA" at the 2021 VMAs, above, and go behind the scenes of her getting ready process, below. Click here to shop all the products mentioned.

Swae on my new song, "LALA," is such a vibe! He brought such great energy to the song and performance at the VMAs. I love this song!

Photography: Ramon Rivas
Styling: Jason Bolden and John Mumblo
Hair: Nai'Vasha Grace
Makeup and skin: Tasha Brown