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Over a decade ago, a musician named Nicki Minaj released her first album, Pink Friday—the rap game (and the world, for that matter) has never been the same. The impact this rapper has had on the music industry alone is unparalleled. (She paved the way for superstars like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion). But Minaj’s influence doesn’t stop within the boundaries of the music industry. In fact, one could say her style has defined the past decade just as much as her music. Like the lyrics she spits, her looks aren’t afraid to go there. In many ways, her style evolution represents the cultural evolution of fashion since 2010 in tandem with her career. So in honor of her birthday, we decided to round up her 25 most memorable looks over the past decade. Prepare yourself—she really is the best.
Minaj’s rise to popularity in the mid-2010s can be attributed to not only being part of Lil Wayne’s record label, Young Money Entertainment, but also the fact that she did not shy away from an avant-garde red carpet outfit. Take, for instance, one of the earliest Grammy Awards looks she served us; a head-to-toe leopard Givenchy ensemble paired with a wild wig. Can we have this moment for life, please?
Back in the mid-2010s, celebrities were the purveyors of camp before it was a Met Gala theme—think Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and, of course, our very own Nicki Minaj. Nothing says camp like her look for the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. Channeling what she called “Harajuku Barbie,” the "Super Bass" video nominee wore a hand-stitched metal dress from Amato Couture paired with a ShojonoTomo surgical mask that left all our heartbeats runnin' away.
Evidently, “camp” wasn’t the only theme Nicki Minaj pioneered back in the day. Before the Met Gala’s Heavenly Bodies theme in 2018, Minaj showed up to the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony in a red cape from Versace reminiscent of the Pope’s signature attire. While some may consider both Minaj’s performance and her look one of the oddest moments in her career, I was thoroughly impressed.
Photo:Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Over the years, the Super Bowl has had its fashion moments, like Beyoncé’s earth-shattering performance in 2016 and Madonna’s epic performance in 2012. While these women are both global icons, the frenzy that occurred when M.I.A. and Minaj appeared onstage to perform "Give Me All Your Luvin'" in 2012 was a moment for the record books. Whoever was sleeping on Minaj at that moment had no choice but to love her.
Photo:Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Maybe this isn’t Minaj’s best look, but it might be her boldest. Something about seeing Minaj wearing this pom-pom concoction of a jacket for Carolina Herra’s spring ready-to-wear show back in 2012 (while sitting next to Anna Wintour, no less!) brings me an insane amount of joy. I’d pay money to have been a fly on the all during their conversation.
Photo:Jason Merritt/Getty Images for MTV.
True Barbz all knew Minaj was stunning from day one, but for the rest of the world, people were shaken when she showed up to the 2014 MTV Movie Awards in a minimal black dress from Alexander McQueen and a simple beauty look. In many ways, this red carpet moment redefined both Minaj’s style and her career—the wig came off, and she came dressed to kill.
Photo:Christopher Polk/BET/Getty Images for BET.
If you’ve made it this far, you know Nicki Minaj’s style can be extra, so you’re probably wondering why her look for her performance at the 2014 BET Awards is in this roundup—and it’s because no other look quite speaks to the pivotal moment of Minaj’s career like this one. She performed singles from her album at the time, The Pinkprint, and reminded everyone why she was one of the highest-paid female rappers of that time.
Photo:Jason Merritt/Getty Images for MTV.
Let it be known in the history books that 2014 was Minaj’s year—and nothing says that more than a leopard Saint Laurent mini at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. While her wardrobe malfunction during her performance of "Bang Bang" with Ariana Grande and Jessie J caught all the headlines at the time, I’m petitioning more respect be put on this sequin number.
Photo:Jason Merritt/Getty Images.
Minaj did not come to play for the 2015 Grammy Awards. Not only was she nominated for the songs "Anaconda" and "Bang Bang," but she also should have won an award for showing up to the ceremony in a showstopping black Tom Ford deep-V-neck dress with fringe. Talk about being fresh to death, down to the shoes.
Photo:Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for TIDAL.
I know Minaj asked if we were ready, but obviously we weren’t. The world stopped when Minaj and Beyoncé first released their song "Feeling Myself" back in 2014, and it stopped a second time when they performed together at Tidal’s philanthropic concert in 2015. I know we’re supposed to carry on, but seeing these two together on stage still has me in shambles.
Okay, I can admit that Minaj didn’t exactly nail the 2016 Met Gala theme of Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, but she looks damn good in this full-length black harness gown by Jeremy Scott. Tweet at me all you want, but I stand by this look in the wider scope of proving that Minaj has always been a risk-taker when it comes to her red carpet style.
While Minaj wasn’t nominated for anything at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, that didn’t stop her from stealing the spotlight in a full-length sheer royal blue gown by Bao Tranchi. Apparently, she couldn’t walk in it, but all I can say is wow.
Any doubts you might have had about Nicki Minaj’s fearless approach to fashion should now be squashed since her look for Tidal X’s 2016 philanthropic concert is as bold as it gets. Who else could wear a Maison Margiela lace bodysuit? Still waiting for a response to that…
Photo:Kevin Mazur/BBMA2017/Getty Images for dcp.
There are probably two things Minaj fans got out of her relationship with Meek Mill, the first being Drake’s diss track "Back to Back." The second, of course, is the reunion moment when Drake, Lil Wayne, and Minaj were back on good terms at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. The cherry on top? Minaj’s cutout full-length sequin gown.
Photo:Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.
Minaj’s red carpet look for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards can be considered one of her most iconic looks—dare I say—ever. Nominated for the video "Side to Side" with Ariana Grande, the rapper showed up in a head-to-toe bubblegum-pink latex look. If that weren’t enough, her long, half-rose-gold hair reminded us all that she gives zero fucks.
When I looked through over a decade of Minaj's style moment, I couldn’t help but scream when I spotted her look for Oscar de La Renta’s S/S 17 show. Why, you ask? Only because she casually rolled up to fashion week in a $19,000 fur coat from Oscar’s F/W 17 ready-to-wear collection. She’s icy in this coat and has me praying for some more snow just so I can see her re-wear this exact outfit.
The 2017 Met Gala served us some seriously iconic looks—think of Zendaya’s Dolce & Gabbana gown, Rihanna’s Comme des Garçons paper gown, Janelle Monáe’s Ralph & Russo gown, and of course, Minaj's look. Despite the fact the gown is from fast-fashion favorite H&M—yes, really—the off-the-shoulder kimono dress featured intricate details like vinyl black flowers and sequins and was the perfect homage to the theme, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons.
Photo:Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.
One could say 2017 was a simpler time—at least for the Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party. While the rap and style game has gotten much more complicated, the only intricacies I truly care about are the beading and stitching required to make the floor-length gown from Oscar de la Renta F/W 17 gown Minaj wore to the event.
Photo:Mike Coppola/MG18/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue.
Y’all can fight me on this if you want, but Minaj’s look for the Met Gala in 2018 is her best look yet, and this was the best Met Gala theme yet. Something about the Heavenly Bodies theme was, well, heavenly. And while Minaj chose to channel the “bad guy” by wearing a head-to-toe red-and-black sequin gown with a full train by Oscar de la Renta paired with a ruby-encrusted Tiffany’s headpiece, I have to say these are the divine looks that fashion girls pray about wearing someday.
Photo:James Devaney/GC Images.
Okay, it should be noted that this is the look from that Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party in 2018. You gotta give it to Minaj, despite the drama, she makes damn sure her style game is on point—and this Alexandre Vauthier Couture strapless tiger-print gown is no exception.
I might get some flak for including this getup, but it wouldn’t be a roundup of Nicki Minaj’s best looks of all time if there weren’t some controversial ones. Minaj’s decision to wear a sheer Off-White bodysuit to the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards deserves as much recognition as the awards she won that night. If anyone can get away with wearing no pants to an award ceremony, it’s Nicki Minaj.
Photo:James Devaney/GC Images.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re no stranger to the fact that Minaj doesn’t save her dramatic dresses just for the red carpet. In fact, the beaded and purple feathered Pamella Roland gown that she wore to the Daily Front Row's 2018 Fashion Media Awards could be by far one of her most breathtaking looks of all time.
Photo:Pierre Suu/GC Images.
Are you still breathing, fam? Because it doesn’t get more Nicki Minaj than this look. I nearly passed out when I found this image of Minaj wearing this Marc Jacobs gown to the designer's S/S 19 show. Her voluminous sleeves speak to the fact that this woman’s style both on and off the red carpet isn’t something we should ever take lightly.
And finally, Minaj’s most recent Met Gala look. If her attending the 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion in a pink embellished gown by Prabal Gurung taught us anything, it's that Minaj’s place both as an artist and as a style icon is forever cemented. There will be new artists, new trends, but Minaj will forever be in her own lane.