My FavoriteAvatar? or @NickiMinaj Does Vogue

Photographed by Steven Klein

Hip-hop star Nicki Minaj has exploded onto the music scene with kaleidoscopic costume changes and hard-hitting lyrics, but there’s a surprising side behind the public persona.

You would not expect Nicki Minaj and Valentino Garavani to have much to say to each other, but front row at the Oscar de la Renta spring 2012 runway show, they exchange greetings worthy of a pair of dowager duchesses. “You look sensational!” “You look fabulous yourself!” Minaj, 29, is hardly your typical Oscar client. The performer is famous for her Harajuku Barbie appearance, a mélange of tiny skirts, bustiers, and leggings in a riot of cartoon hues, invariably topped with a towering pastel wig and Miss Piggy eyelashes. This highly mannered, instantly recognizable look stands in contradiction to the feminist content of many of her lyrics, such as “I’m fightin’ for the girls that never thought they could win,” from “I’m the Best.” But the unlikely combination of cotton-candy style and bold (sometimes frankly obscene) substance has proved a source of fascination and adulation.

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