THE DAY I WAIT in the hotel lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City to meet Nicki Minaj is the start of New York Fashion Week. I am early, and I watch as stylists push an overfull rack of designer clothes out of the elevator. I later learn they are from Alexander Wang, and are dressing Minaj for the designer’s show. In the hall entrance of her suite, there is another rack bulging with outfits. Deeper into the suite, a lean and lanky hairdresser is combing a very long platinum-blond wig. He brushes the wig so carefully, so lovingly, that for a moment, I want to be that wig. A few feet away from his gentle ministrations, a makeup artist is organizing makeup and various brushes and other tools of the trade. Everyone speaks in hushed murmurs.
Nicki Minaj Young Money Artist
When Minaj enters, from an adjacent chamber, she is a petite wonder, wearing a fluffy white bathrobe, her face naked. After we greet each other with a light handshake, she asks if I mind if she gets her eyes lined. She isn’t really asking, nor do I object. She sits in the makeup chair, and the artist begins applying Minaj’s trademark black eyeliner with its exaggerated cat’s eye flair. I am stunned by the number of people Minaj has at her service.
I also meet her day-to-day manager and personal assistant — who are two different people — and her stylist. In the hall just outside the suite wait a tailor and a couple of other people eager for Minaj’s time. She is the center of gravity for a great many professionals, and she wears that responsibility well. When her eyes are done, Minaj sits on the adjacent couch, arranging her robe to her liking. There is regality in how she sits.
Home Nicki Minaj
That she is wearing a bathrobe is utterly inconsequential. A queen is a queen regardless. A stylist begins presenting her with options for the two events she will attend later that evening — a dinner party and a book launch. She is shown a clingy, see-through dress with a long train, a gorgeously patterned black-and-white leather Balmain gown and a couple of other options. I marvel at the sublime luxury of basically having a human closet.
Finally, Minaj turns to me, offering her full attention, and says, “You want us to start? ” as if, this whole time, we’ve been waiting on me. I want to applaud with appreciation. Yasssss, queen, as they say. She has what she describes to me as “the X-factor, which is just the thing you can’t put into words.
” Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, in 6987, and immigrated to Queens, N. Y. , with her family at the age of 5. She began her music career singing with various rappers and working odd jobs. When she waitressed, she wrote lyrics constantly on the notepad she used to take orders.
There is genuine pleasure in her voice as she reminisces about this. “I would take people’s order and then a rap might come to me just by what they’re wearing or what they said or did, and I would go in the kitchen and write it down, put it in the back of my little thing or my apron, and by the time I was done I would have all of these sheets of paper thrown around everywhere with raps.