No one was more surprised than Nicki Minaj when Anna Wintour invited her to perform at the 2011 Green Auction: A Bid To Save The Earth on Tuesday. As Clutch Magazine reports, the Young Money rap star tweeted:

Yes, being on Anna Wintour’s radar is something to commemorate. For many young designers and emerging stars, a nod of approval from Anna Wintour goes a long way in transforming their career and putting them on a trajectory toward lasting success.

After all, it was Anna Wintour who recommended both Marc Jacobs and John Galliano for their career-defining positions as head designers at Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, respectively. Anna’s last fashion darling, Blake Lively of CW’s Gossip Girl is now enjoying her “dream” job fronting the campaign for Chanel’s Mademoiselle Handbag line and a pair of Christian Louboutin’s coveted shoes was named after her.

But Nicki Minaj has been on my radar for quite some time. To be sure, I dismissed her at first as having no kind of substantive contribution to fashion as her wardrobe seemed to consist solely of leggings, leotards and bras. The only thing that distinguished her from the myriad of hip-hop stars and video vixens rocking the same look was a Barbie necklace.

It was her shoe game that first won me over; avante garde offerings from Versace and Christian Louboutin that suddenly brought creativity, color and drama back to the celebrity fashion scene. Her wigs served the same purpose with creative, structured shapes, vibrant colors and even camouflage prints that made beauty fun again.

By the time she wore a brilliant Manish Arora dress to the 2010 American Music Awards with a blonde wig dipped in green, I was a certified fan.

Later I surprised myself, checking fashion blogs for every look she wore while visiting London the way I would Rihanna, Solange Knowles or Zoe Kravitz.

Nicki Minaj was noticed by top contemporary design houses who sent her pieces from Givenchy Couture (custom made for The Grammy Awards), The Blonds and Christian Siriano and were thrilled when she was photographed wearing them.

And while the debate regarding the uniqueness of her sound and delivery is valid, she has blended raw sex appeal, a quirky sensibility and a theatrical flair into a fashionable web all her own.

Nicki’s not the first contemporary female rapper to embrace fashion. Lil’ Kim name-dropped top fashion houses in her songs, wore bikinis and luxurious furs and befriended Marc Jacobs. Eve was featured in major fashion magazines and started her own line, Fetish. But not many rappers, male or female, have been embraced by the industry so openly that they’d be invited to perform at a fancy, elite event. Certainly not by Anna Wintour, herself.

The fashion industry’s excitement about Nicki Minaj signifies more than photographs on the red carpet and high-profile performances, of course. It could open the door for more endorsements, major editorial campaigns and mainstream attention that so many of our female rap icons deserved, but never received.

In a half-blonde, half-green wig and an Alexander Wang leotard, tights and boots, Nicki Minaj performed at the 2011 Green Auction. In front of a crowd which included the biggest names in contemporary American fashion (Michael Kors), modeling (Jourdan Dunn) and makeup (Pat McGrath), she rapped ‘Moment 4 Life’ and ‘Monster’ with her usual brash, in-your-face antics. It’s said the audience of fashion industry power players danced in their seats. And that Anna Wintour enjoyed the performance.

-Jessica C. Andrews

What do you think of Nicki Minaj’s fashion sense? Has her style upgraded from when she first hit the scene? Are you surprised that Anna Wintour personally invited her to perform? What could the industry’s fondness for Nicki Minaj mean for female rappers and mainstream fashion?


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