Anyone who doubted that Nicki Minaj could compete with Lady Gaga‘s vise grip on the high fashion hierarchy needs only ask Donatella Versace if Minaj makes the cut. Sharing the bill with Prince, the singer played a spirited set Tuesday night at Manhattan’s Pier 57 to fete H&M’s buzzed-about collaboration with Versace. Less than 24 hours later, she landed another style coup by performing with Kanye West and Maroon 5 at the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which will be broadcast live on CBS November 29th.
Both events provided ideal venues to showcase Minaj’s flamboyant personal style and over-the-top stage theatrics. Like the singer, Victoria’s Secret exports a “wittier” side of sexy, with many of the ensembles its models wore onstage last night resembling glitzy, skimpy Halloween costumes. They were kinky, campy and Very Sexy – but, of course, not “very serious.” You might call them “proudly pink” – much like Minaj herself, who also overtly associates herself with that shade’s “fiercely feminine” side and continually demonstrates through her work that fun and flirtatious can suddenly turn wild.
Versace has built an empire on a similar hyperbolic sex appeal. As any fashion follower (or even SNL viewer familiar with Maya Rudoph’s popular Donatella impersonation) knows, the Italian label isn’t exactly an emblem of quiet elegance; its defiant spirit of sex, excess and good times (even in the worst of times) makes it a perpetual symbolic staple in the wardrobes of pop and urban performing artists. A collaboration with a mass retailer offers a welcome point of entry to aspiring fans of the label, many of whom would consider themselves as sexy and eclectic dressers as Minaj herself.
For her performance to celebrate Versace’s H&M clothing, Minaj was as enthusiastic as her fans about the clothing collaboration they’d gathered to celebrate. At the finale of her zany tropical-hued performance (which included Pink Friday favorites “Super Bass” and “Roman’s Revenge”), she positioned the crowd as her competitors, warning them that “after the next performer is done, you have to fight me to the line to buy these clothes, bitches!” That’s a challenge even the fiercest fashionista in attendance didn’t want to take on.
In 2010, Minaj told Rolling Stone she saw herself hosting a successful clothing line and perfume in five years’ time. Right now, her fashion goals seem smartly aligned with the beauty industry, a great way to prove she can build a cohesive brand. So far, so good: She already has a very successful MAC “Pink Friday” lipstick collaboration under her belt and will officially become a Viva Glam ambassador for the brand in early 2012 – which is when she also will release her first Pink Friday–themed nail polish collection with OPI.