The perpetual chameleon may be many things, but she’s never low-key. When it comes to beauty, she mixes the bold with the basic.
Many a megastar will turn up for an interview clad in denim or a casual dress in order to appear more down-to-earth. Not Nicki Minaj. When we meet in a hotel room overlooking New York’s Union Square after the unveiling of Minaj’s M.A.C Viva Glam lipstick, the diminutive chart-topper looks as though she just beamed down from planet Express Yourself. It’s hard to know where to look first: the shoulder-length blond wig dotted with pink leopard spots, the strappy peach-hued Hervé Léger dress, or the fox-fur-embellished Louboutin stilettos. Minaj’s fondness for wackadoo fashion, Day-Glo makeup, and cartoonish wigs—so many wigs—has established her, along with Gaga and Katy Perry, as one of the most flamboyant and fun-to-watch ladies currently leading the hit parade.
Have long have you been into experimenting with your look?
I was always inspired by people who did wild stuff but didn’t always have the balls to do it myself. Now I can’t leave it alone. Even with my wigs, I get bored. I can’t believe I used to wear the same hairstyle every day of the year.
When did the wig love begin?
When I met a person who could do them. I don’t want a wig that looks like a wig; I want one that could pass for a weave. And I have an amazing hairdresser [Terrence Davidson]. I could literally tell him to put a jukebox on my head, and he would figure it out.
What’s the most high-maintenance part of your beauty routine?
My eyes, because they’re the one thing I need my makeup artist to do. I don’t have the patience, my hands shake, and I mess everything up. So my makeup artist has to do my brows and lids and lashes. Everyone knows I’m a lash girl by now. When I don’t have my lashes, I feel naked.
Are they extensions or strips?
Today I’m wearing strips. I used to wear the individual lashes, but those became so time-consuming. We needed to figure out an easier way, so my makeup artist has been experimenting with cutting lash strips in half and piling them on top of each other.
What’s the best tip a makeup artist has taught you?
I contour by using a lighter shade of foundation under my eyes instead of concealer. I take it down in a triangle by the sides of my nose, and then apply blush on top. I don’t do round, rosy cheeks; that’s for old people. It’s played out. I like the color to be like a diagonal line across the cheekbone up to the temples. It really changes the shape of my face.
What’s always in your makeup bag?
I can’t see myself without pink lipstick. I can go without it for a couple days, but if there was no more pink lipstick in the world, I’d be useless. Seriously. And a good white pencil for under the eye, just inside the rim. It helps you look like you’re on.
How do you keep your skin in good shape while touring?
I take my makeup off immediately. If I don’t, I’ll wake up and be like, “Oh my God!” because I’ll have breakouts.
And on days off?
I’ll still wear pink lipstick, and maybe some lip conditioner.
Your nails are surprisingly simple.
My nails used to be, like, a mile long, with all these crazy designs on them. The reason I stopped doing that was because one time, when I was driving from New York to Atlanta, I hit my hand on something and it ripped off the nail and the skin. I had to pull over I was in so much pain and stay in a $50 motel where the truckers sleep. I vowed I would never get long nails again.
All sales of ultrapink M.A.C Viva Glam Nicki will go to the M.A.C AIDS fund; Minaj keeps her limbs soft with cocoa-butter-infused lotions such as Vaseline Total Moisture Cocoa Radiant and always has Skintimate Extra Gentle Moisturizing Cream Shave in her shower—“It smells so good!”; Minaj’s collaboration with OPI Nail Lacquer has resulted in six vibrant shades, including the cerulean Fly; she uses M.A.C Pro Longwear fluid foundation on both her face and legs—“If you change your makeup a lot and want coverage without wearing something heavy, put that one on. It’s really lightweight”; “If you don’t bring me Dove, we’ll probably be fighting,” says the rapper of her favorite cleansing bar—“I have supersensitive skin, and it’s very gentle”; though she’s open to trying any rainbow-bright shade of eye shadow, Minaj says she “can’t live without M.A.C black liquid eyeliner.”