Late last week Nicki Minaj won a “Daily Mail” headline by wearing an outfit that consisted of black studded high-waisted underpants, black stockings, a fishnet top, harness, black bra, and jacket. Apparently that outfit was for the taping of a “Nightline” profile that aired last night, in which Minaj’s fashion choices were unsurprisingly addressed.
Reporter Juju Chang asked Minaj how if she’s offended by comparisons to Lady Gaga. “Offend me? No. Irks me? Yeah,” she said. She insisted that she doesn’t see the comparison, and asked Chang to explain how they’re similar. Well, the wigs, for one, Chang offers.
“Wigs? Every female in this game wears wigs,” Minaj says.
Okay, how about over-the-top costumes?
“Over-the-top costumes?” she considers. “Eh. Try again.”
“We're in completely different lanes," she added of Lady Gaga. "I'm a rapper ... Gaga's a fantastic artist, you know, she paved her way. She's opened her own lane. But I think that I have my own lane. And we never cross. Ever. So, you know, I really don't get the comparison anymore. Our music doesn't sound the same. Our stage presence is not the same. I just can't see the similarities.”
Minaj was put on the defensive in that moment. But should she really have to defend herself as “Not Lady Gaga” because of how she dresses? Over the past few years, female pop artists have indulged themselves and audiences in insane outfits. The performing doesn’t stop when they’re off-stage, either. Gone are the days, it seems, when it was acceptable for a pop star to be seen going to the gym in sweats and sneakers. Now, fans crave constant performance art whenever a pop star is outside of a private space. Gaga ingeniously seized on that and delivered: she goes to the gym and everywhere else wearing her fishnets, thong, and 11-inch platforms at all times. She works hard to look interesting, keep us entertained, and more importantly, to keep us talking about her.
The number of outlets we have to cover the world’s most beloved pop artists demands that sort of constant performing, and Gaga and Minaj just so happen to be among the best examples of how successful a star can get by mastering the art of using that media, and keeping the increasingly easily bored masses interested.
Yet as Gaga was rising, paparazzi shots of Rihanna wearing nipple pasties and crop tops and hot pants were populating fan sites across the Internet. And she was hardly the first to cause a stir with her clothes — stars have gotten attention for those for ages. If you want to compare Minaj to Gaga because of her clothing, you kind of also have to compare her to artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry — and maybe you should also reach even farther back for comparisons to Cher:
All of whom were sartorially controversial and interesting in their heydays.
Minaj, who says her clothing is inspired Japanese street style, deserves praise for pulling off her special brand of sartorial crazy. Crafting wild looks like hers isn’t easy — it’s much easier to come out looking like an unfashionable mess than a fashionable one. Those who do it the most fashionably — like Rihanna, Gaga, and Minaj — are awarded with “Vogue” spreads (Minaj is the only of those three not have gotten her own “Vogue” cover, but it doesn’t feel that out of reach). And those who do it in a way that works with their music become the most famous for it.