When Onika Maraj broke into the mainstream music scene in 2009, she came with guns blazing and an arsenal of alter egos to unleash upon the world — among them, Harajuku Barbie, Martha and Roman Zolanski, Nicki Lewinski — and, of course, the persona of Nicki Minaj herself. With each character came a distinct beauty look, expressed with the likes of cotton-candy-colored wigs and Manga-like makeup. In joining in the great tradition of chameleon artists before her (see: Madonna and Lady Gaga), the Trinidad native (by way of Southside Jamaica, Queens) changes her look as rapidly as she spits rhymes.
But, as she graduated from underground-rapper-on-the-verge to music-industry vet, the star started trading cosplay for couture, and donned more classically pretty beauty looks to match. The result has been one of the greatest celebrity makeunders we’ve seen. At first glance, the transition from Harajuku Barbie to, say, red-carpet-posing Hollywood actor may seem extreme. But despite a radical change in image, Minaj has maintained her core aesthetic, favoring clean winged eyes, pink lips, and ultra-flirty lashes when at events. Of course, it would be foolish to count Minaj’s current vibe as gospel. If we’ve learned one thing from following the actor-rapper-singer-entrepreneur, it’s that there’s no telling what she’ll give us next.
Ahead, check out her beauty evolution in all its glory — just in time for her birthday.