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Alicia Keys’ Makeup-Free VMA Appearance and Other Notes From the Week

Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week's top stories.

We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

VMAs Came and Went

MTV held its annual Video Music Awards on Sunday. Beyonce’s Lemonade brought in enough wins to surpass Madonna for most moonmen. And speaking of the Madonna record, I couldn’t help but note the sexualized performances by every female on stage—and question the influence of Madonna’s revolutionary performances decades earlier. While Madge was edgy in the 80s, today we seem to live in an era where highly sexualized performances are the new way to conform. Which is even more reason why Rihanna, who was awarded the Video Vanguard Award and performed four times throughout the evening, surprised us as the classiest moment of the evening. In fact, if you missed the VMAs, read why her performance is all you really need to watch. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Alicia Keys Went Without Makeup

Award-winning singer Alicia Keys has made good on her pledge to go makeup-free since the summer, and Sunday night’s VMAs were no exception. Back in May she penned an essay about her decision to reject makeup, explaining that she wasn’t happy feeling like she had to cover up to be beautiful, that she felt as if she had become too comfortable wearing a mask. “Before I started my new album, I wrote a list of all the 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… Or the constant message that being sexy means being naked.” When she shot the cover art for her new album, then, it just made sense to allow the photographs to be as raw as the lyrics to her songs.

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing makeup in itself—as Keys herself wrote in a Twitter selfie caption, "Y'all, me choosing to be makeup free doesn't mean I'm anti-makeup. Do you!" But she’s right that there is a problem when we feel like it would be socially unacceptable for us to go out in public bare-faced, ever. I for one think that the fact that a beautiful woman’s bare face is so striking proves how unfamiliar we have become with what we really look like. Alicia, we salute you! —Sophie Caldecott

California’s Taking Another Look at the Law That Let Brock Turner Off So Easily

Back in the news is Brock Turner, the 20-year-old Stanford swimmer who was convicted earlier this year on three counts of felony sexual assault for manually penetrating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Turner is being released from prison today for good behavior after serving just three months of his six-month sentence. 

Turner's original sentencing was already controversial. Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the case, has taken a lot of heat for his lenient ruling and claim that jail time would have a “severe impact” on the Stanford student. In the wake of the outrage and media attention, legislators in California have passed a bill to close the legal loophole that let Brock Turner off so easily. As The Cut reported, “California law requires prison terms in convictions for rape and sexual assault, but those requirements don’t apply if the victim was unconscious or too impaired to resist. The new bill, which easily passed California’s Democratic-controlled legislature (on Monday), would change that.” The bill was passed unanimously and is now before California Governor Jerry Brown. If the new bill had been in effect at the time of Brock Turner’s trial, he would have been required to serve a minimum of three years in prison. —SC

Selena Gomez Announces She’s Taking A Break to Focus on Health

Selena Gomez told People this week that she’s taking “some time off” to recover from anxiety and depression. "As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways. I've discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges." The singer has decided to “be proactive and focus on maintaining [her] health” and to “face this head on to ensure [she is] doing everything possible to be [her] best.” A health editor at Huffington Post responded to the news saying “Gomez’s decision to take time off to deal with her health is something more people should do.” As it happens, women are twice as likely as men to have anxiety disorders. While not everyone can take a break from their job like Gomez, everyone has ways they can reach out and get the help they need for mental health issues, professional or otherwise. “I know I am not alone by sharing this,” Gomez said. “I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues. —MRS

Gene Wilder, Rest in Peace

Gene Wilder, the legendary comedian and actor best known for his role of Willy Wonka in the 1971 movie adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory passed away on Monday. It was revealed that he had been battling Alzheimer’s disease for years but decided to keep his illness from public knowledge. “The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment, or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” shared his nephew in a touching official statement following his death. —SC

Body Image Study Shows It’s Worse Than We Thought

Children as young as 4 know how to diet, and many 3-year-olds have “body image issues,” new research suggests. As the Telegraph reports, “research by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) showed almost a third of nursery and school staff have heard a child label themselves fat. Ten percent said they had heard a child say they felt ugly.” What's more, Dr. Jacqueline Harding (an advisor to the research group, says that the primary negative influences on modern children are most likely “images on TV; images in story books and animations and the general chat by adults about their bodies, dieting and cosmetic surgery.” If that doesn’t make you sit up and want to change the media’s messages about body image, nothing will.

In more positive body image news, a group of models including Charli Howard and Clémentine Desseaux recently launched a body positive campaign called #iamallwoman with the goal of helping women of all body shapes and sizes feel beautiful. As Charli Howard pointed out to Teen Vogue, “Brands need to listen to the consumer. If we're paying for your products, we deserve to see ourselves represented in campaigns. It's been proven that using bigger girls does not harm sales. If we can do a project like this with no budget, bigger brands can do the same and choose women of color and diverse sizes.” Cheers to that. —SC

Britney Spears Says Motherhood Helped her Anxiety

Britney Spears, who is featured on the cover of the October issue of Marie Claire UK, says she experienced great anxiety as a female in the limelight. "I moved to Los Angeles when I was very young. I was so under scrutiny ...If a hair was out of place, I’d be so anxious. I would get very anxious about so many things." But after becoming a mom and focusing on her kids, she says, she grew in accepting herself. “Becoming a mother and being with my boys has made me so much more accepting of myself. I’m their mom, whatever ... That has been a really big thing for me over these last few years." Spears’ words remind me of the paradox Laura Vanderkam wrote about for Verily recently. Yes, kids change one’s lifestyle significantly, but they also can bring a lot of joy. —MRS

Zombieland 2 is Coming

Remember the hilarious flick from 2009 Zombieland? Well this week it was revealed that the film featuring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Jesse Eisenberg, is going to return to theaters with a sequel written by the same writers as the original—read: not be repackaged mush—and is also likely to feature much of the original cast. Considering Zombieland was one of the most laugh-out-loud films I saw that year, not to mention being the kind of zombie flick I can actually enjoy (i.e. more goofy than gory), I for one am psyched to see it return to the big screen. —MRS

One Less Ray of Sunshine for Syria

Last week Channel 4 News released a heart-breaking short video documentary about “the last gardener in rebel-held Aleppo”, a city in worn-torn Syria. Abu Ward, whose name aptly means “Father of the flowers,” ran the garden with his son until he was killed recently in a bombing. “During five years of conflict this oasis has provided some comfort to those still in the city,” report the documentary makers.

Aleppo, previously the commercial capital of Syria, is in a highly strategic position and is reportedly one of the most fought over locations in the country. On Tuesday ISIS made a rare public statement to the effect that one of their most senior members had recently been killed in the area. Documentaries like the one about Abu Ward matter because they provide a human face to the terror and destruction raging in the Middle East right now and shine a much-needed spotlight on the struggle of normal locals trying to make their little patch of the world that much better, despite the odds. —SC