back to top

I Wore A 40-Inch Nicki Minaj Wig Without Nicki Minaj Money For A Week And Here's How Life Went

I just really love my natural hair — apparently more than I love luxury $800 wigs.

Hey y'all! I'm Essence, beauty editor here at BuzzFeed, and because I'm a certified lazy beauty with a thick mound of hair, I keep three styles in rotation: Afro, Afro puff, and Afro puffs...with an "s."

Most recently, though, I got the most drastic makeover of my life by Unilever hairstylist Ursula Stephen, also the mane slayer to stars like Rihanna and Bebe Rexha!

Essence Gant

Before we go any further, let's just process the fact that the same woman who gave Rihanna some of her most signature looks placed her gifted hands in my roots, edges, and scalp for approximately two hours. *sigh*


The transformation was part of a challenge in which I, along with my two gorge coworkers Patrice and Sylvia, rocked a 40-inch human hair lace front like Nicki Minaj's for a work week.* The catch, however, was that I don't have Minaj money, so no glam squad to put my wig on every morning, or to make sure it wasn't caught in anything like zippers and subway doors.

Facebook: video.php

*I actually took on the challenge for a full week. I didn't do much on Saturday, tho, except for a liquor store run, so I didn't wear it since I spent the day in the house. I wore it to a spa on Sunday, but I was only there for a few hours before returning to my old lady nest.

My wig came from Exotic Hair in Brooklyn, the same spot Nicki's stylist gets some of her wigs from, and it was $800...ON SALE. 😱

It took about two hours for the full transformation, start to finish. Part of a good wig lay is making sure that your natural hair is as flat as possible underneath. Ursula blew out my hair and braided it down so that the wig could have a flat foundation.

Brendan Smith / BuzzFeed

Blowing out and braiding my hair took the longest because it's so thick.

To first get my hair clean and moisturized, Ursula used Suave Professionals Avocado + Olive Oil Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner, and the Avocado + Olive Oil Smoothing Leave-In Conditioning Cream. All products are available on Walmart for $2.94 each. They feel sooooooooooo good (and I don't even eff with drugstore products like that, so you KNOW it's real!).

Once she was done with the braid-down, she put on a stocking cap and lined my wig to this A-list perfection!!! I instantly felt like the love child of Idris Elba and Cher.

Essence Gant

Ursula is full of tricks and hacks. To make the wig even longer, 50 inches to be exact, she installed some extra clip-in tracks towards the bottom. And since this was for a challenge and I wasn't used to working with so much hair, she pinned down the wig into my stocking cap and cornrows instead of gluing down the lace to my hairline. She promised that she "pinned the FUCK outta that wig," and it felt super secure. She also gave it a good flat ironing so that it was sleeky-straight.


I was in LOVE with the look and randomly twerked in excitement throughout the day. Surprisingly, the hair didn't feel too heavy, but I was hyper-aware that I had a veil of hair trailing me as I got on the train and walked down the NYC streets.

Video credit and commentary: @speakpatrice.

One of my main concerns was eating, since it is in fact one of my favorite sports. I didn't want to get hair in my food, so coming up with a trick that would allow me to look glam and still eat freely without getting food in my wig was a top priority. I figured pulling it back and securing it in a low ponytail would probably work, but I wasn't sure, so I immediately went to a burger spot next to Ursula's salon so that I could put my theory to the test. One cheeseburger and basket of fries with lots of ketchup later, I was ecstatic to learn my method worked! I would continue to practice it for the remainder of the challenge.

Later that night I took out the clip-ins because I'm not a pro, and I didn't wanna be bothered with installing them every single morning. #Stressful. I didn't sleep in the wig either, even though Ursula said I could. I go IN when I sleep, and I didn't want to feel inhibited by the hair of the lovely humans who so generously shed their strands to make this expensiveness.

On day two I woke up earlier than usual to give myself plenty of time to put on my hair, and I was STILL late to work. I took so long trying to get my wig right, I forgot I was boiling an egg on the stove. All the water evaporated, and the egg and pot were severely burnt. My hair, however, was POPPIIIIIIIIN'!!!

Essence Gant

On my first attempt, I placed and pinned the wig too far back. I had to take out all the pins and reposition the wig closer to my hairline. I really had to take my time because my skills aren't good enough to go quickly. The second try was way better, but it resulted in a burnt egg, a burnt pot, and a late-to-work beauty editor. Here at BuzzFeed the workday starts at 10:00, and I strolled in around 10:30. Not too bad for someone who's only worn two wigs, neither of which were 40 inches long, in her lifetime.

Once I got into work, the reactions from my coworkers who've only seen me wear my natural hair and box braids were AMAZING! Everyone was a fan of the new 'do, and I got several requests to do random twirls and spins around the office. I obliged, of course.

After work I had a second date with this new guy I've been chillin' with. My hair was in my go-to Afro puff on our first date, so I didn't want to warn him of my new toddler-sized wig. Patrice braided it for me because I wanted to look grown and sophisticated. I showed up like all was normal to get his honest first impression. Long story short, he loved it!

New guy stared for a second when he first saw me, clearly trying to figure out what was different. Then he finally said, "Your hair was big and curly the first time, right?" He told me that he liked the switch and said how beautiful I was several times throughout dinner. I was pleased with his reaction and relieved he wasn't one of those "I only like natural girls" characters who are anti–weave and makeup, so I agreed to seeing him again. Plus, he has REALLY good taste in restaurants and y'all know eating is my favorite sport!


OK so on some real shit, by day three I was low-key missing my 'fro. I still liked the look, but I was NOT feeling all the work that went into making sure my wig was laid every day. Waking up early was getting old real quick, so I just decided to go to work makeupless and do a slight beat once I got there.

I was so over it once I got to work, and I thought about not doing my makeup at all. But I quickly snapped out of it and asked myself, "What would Onika Tanya Maraj do?" It didn't matter that she'd have a full glam squad on deck to assist her. All that mattered is that she'd still have her face DID, so I whipped out my cosmetics bag and got busy like a good lil' barb.

Brendan Smith / BuzzFeed

Day three was pretty uneventful. It was midweek, and I think all the hair prep was making me tired. But I was determined to serve in this kneecap-length hair. Of all the days, this was probably the day I had to embody Nicki's spirit the most. "Slay, don't stray," I whispered internally throughout the day to keep myself going.


On day four, my wig felt looser than the days before. I'm thinking this was because my braids underneath were getting looser, naturally so, so my wig wasn't as snug as it had been. I'm always running because I'm always late, and the last thing I wanted was for my slightly looser wig to fly off in the wind. So, in the words of Ursula, I "pinned the FUCK outta that wig."

Essence Gant

After about 30 hairpins, no exaggeration, my wig felt really secure. I concentrated most of them in the crown and near my hairline. I was still a little paranoid, though, so I found myself checking my wig in my desk mirror multiple times throughout the day. The wig was totally fine, but I'm genetically predisposed to worrying (THANKS, MOM AND GRANDMA!).

I also had a photo shoot with one of my fave coworkers, Taylor. It was the highlight of my day, and it was exciting to get back into the glam of it all with a shoot. It really reminded me that while my new look did require more work than I'm used to, it was also really fun and I should totally be enjoying the whole experience.

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

In this photo I pretended to be laughing really hard at a joke, because a) I'm extra, b) Taylor is also extra, and c) no one else was present to stop us from our extraness.

Later that night I met with some of my homegirls for dinner, and I was warmly greeted with a whole lotta "YAAAAAS!", "You betta werrrrrrk!", and "BIIIIIIIISSSSSH!" reactions. We talked everything, from hair to Amber Rose, and then after about three hours, I went home, snatched off my wig, and passed out.

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

When I tell y'all I was so hype to snatch that wig off. I also took out one of my hairpins in the back of my wig and used it to give my scalp a good scratch on the way home. It had just enough reach, and it was small enough that I could get to my scalp without being hella obvious.


Probably goes without saying, but by day five, I was hype that the challenge was coming to an end! Don't get me wrong. It was crazy fun wearing such an over-the-top hairstyle, but it was a lot of work, and I just really love my natural hair — apparently more than I love luxury $800 wigs.

Essence Gant

I did develop a newfound respect for all the glam goddesses who consistently slay in wigs and weaves on a regular basis. The pride they take in their image is admirable.

Different strokes for different folks, tho. Towards the end of the week, I had began looking forward to getting home each day and snatching off my wig. I longed for the day I could unbraid those cornrows and rock my thick 'fro again. Everyone has a style they feel most comfortable rocking, and for me, I feel most comfortable — and most myself — when I'm wearing my hair in its natural, untamed bushy state. I also think I look my best in my big kinky puff, tho I do admit I looked goooooood with 40 inches of hair swinging past my behind!

It's definitely a cute look, but nothing I could rock every day. I'm thinking I'll make it my Hamptons wig/upscale club "We gettin' bottle service tonight!" wig.

Brendan Smith / BuzzFeed

I think a common misconception is that wigs are just an easy fix when you don't feel like being bothered with your own hair, but pulling off a wig is real work. There's a lot to consider: Does it look too wiggy? Is it secure? Is my hair underneath flat enough? Is the wig lined evenly? How do I scratch my scalp without just ripping off the whole damn unit? Is that a bug I feel, or am I trippin'? So. Much. To. Think. Abouuuuuut!

I'm sure you get used to it with time, but there are still a lot of factors you have to take into account with wigs that you just don't have to worry about when wearing your own hair. I would totally wear it again, but highly unlikely that I'd wear it more than two days in a row. I went into this challenge thinking I'd be a wig convert, but I'll probably just be a once-in-a-while wig wearer at the very most. I plan to get a good trim and rock a protective style soon, so maybe I'll pull it out then.

Which crazy expensive or over-the-top trend should we try next? Holler at me in the comments below!

Connect with As/Is