Nicki Minaj for W Magazine

Posted on October 17, 2011

We LOVE the idea behind this editorial, where artist Franceso Vezzoli restaged classic paintings of famous courtesans with Nicki Minaj, wearing today’s couture. But we’re a bit confused by two things:

Nicki Minaj for W MagazineNicki Minaj featured in W magazine transformed by Francesco Vezzoli. Director of photography: Pasquale Abbattista. Styled by Edward Enninful. Hair by Terrence Davidson at I.A.T. Management. Makeup by Aaron de Mey for Lancôme at Art Partner. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

We don’t know what the hell that thing is supposed to be on the cover, and we don’t understand why she’s giving the same crazy, wild-eyed look in every picture.

Still, they’re gorgeous, and Vezzoli draws some interesting parallels between the modern pop star and the powerful courtesans of history.


Nicki Minaj for W MagazineNicki Minaj as Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan
Dior Haute Couture’s silk embroidered ensemble. Saint Vintage brass and vintage Czech glass bead necklace (in hair); David Yurman 18k yellow gold and pearl necklace.

“In her performances, Minaj makes very explicit and ­challenging use of her beauty and her body, so I thought of comparing her to some of the most famous courtesans in history: the Marquise de ­Montespan, Comtesse du Barry, Madame de Pompadour, and ­Madame Rimsky-­Korsakov. My idea was to reproduce four iconic portraits of some of the most fascinating females of the past in a series starring an American pop-culture role model. We tried to re-create those original portraits using similar furniture, props, and clothing, à la Visconti. Luckily enough, the result came out as surreal as it could be, just as I wished.”

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan by Elle Louis-Ferdinand.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Nicki Minaj as Marie Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry
Dior Haute Couture’s silk chiffon embroidered dress. Mastoloni 18k white gold, cultured pearl, and diamond bracelets; vintage Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Marie Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry by Francois-Hubert Drouais.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Nicki Minaj as Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour
Western Costume Company’s lace and silk brocade dress. Mastoloni 18k white gold, cultured pearl, and diamond bracelets.

“I wanted to play with the public image of a female hip-hop star. During my entire career, I have always been fascinated by powerful women in history. I have spent a lot of time researching the ways they were represented in art and how their images were used to mold the public imagination—and to convey aesthetic and philosophical ideas about beauty and sexual desire. My main interest has been to link the historical artistic approach to female representation to contemporary icons of the media era.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour by François Boucher.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Nicki Minaj as Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov.
Vera Wang’s garza and French tulle ballgown.

Nicki Minaj for W Magazine Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.


[Photo Credit:,]

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  • Anonymous

    Love this. Nicki Minaj has such an incredible sense of style. Love the clothes and the pose. Especially the crazy eye. Makes me think of Carol Burnett.

  • Anonymous

    The crazy eye appears to be one of Nicki’s trademarks and that’s fine with me, LOVE HER! And thanks TLo for pairing her up with the corresponding historical portrait.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s amazing how well they were able to correlate today’s couture designs to the historical representations. But yeah, the crazy, wild-eyed look doesn’t enhance the story.

  • Sobaika Mirza

    Her crazy eyes (and that thing on the cover) need to go. Other than that, it’s a pretty interesting editorial.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been staring at that cover for a solid 5 minutes, now, and the only possible explanations I can come up with involve either John Berger’s Ways of Seeing or a serial killer in the making.

    • Cindi Williams

      I give props to anyone who references Berger. :)

  • Jessica TallGirl Freeman

    At least some of the pictures showcase how pretty her face actually is….but the cover.  I’m sure I’m not the only one whose first thought was……..?????WTF????????

    • Cate

      agreed. some of the other shots are SO much more cover worthy.

  • Anonymous

    She’d probably stop with the crazy eyes once someone tells her she looks exactly like Minnie Driver when she does that.

  • Anonymous

    WTH with the crazy eyes. We all know you know how to take a picture, Minaj, you ain’t foolin nobody. NOW SNAP OUT OF IT.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know why, but she is like nails on a chalk board for me. Maybe it’s her big fake butt (there is actually a picture/s floating around showing the padding), or it’s the fact that she uses a dildo on stage as a prop.  I mean really? Has it come to that? Can you go any lower as a pop star?  Ok, yea, you can, I know.  

    • Lucía Valencia

      Totally agree. I kinda wish TLo would stop featuring her so much :.

  • tom

    It’s certainly is better than that Vogue Italia Halloween thing with those models that looked as if Mr. Crack was their best friend.

  • muzan-e

    On the front cover: dangling from her eye is a Mona Lisa eye. In blue. A comparison.

    Is she shedding the old?
    Exploding out from behind it?
    Anchored by some timeless, meaningless conception of perfect beauty?

    ……yeah, I got no idea. *g*

    • Dawn Grimes Stough

      maybe it’s a take on ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’… ??? 

      • muzan-e

        … kicking myself for not thinking of that one. *g*   Sadly, as much as I love the rest of the shots, that cover just seems a little silly.

    • Anonymous

      From that angle the eye looks like a blue vagina. Over her throat. Some sort of symbolism…?

    • Anonymous

      Good catch on the eye. But now, the more I look at it, the less it looks like ML’s eye than something else. I just can’t place it.

  • Arthur Lipp-Bonewits

    She’s making the same look in all those pictures because she’s Nicki Minaj.

  • mitchell settoon

    I think the eye on the cover was a reference to the Countess de Castiglione, a 19th century courtesan (Mistress of Napoleon III) who was into posing for and composing surrealist photography.  She was into photos of detached body parts, and among her most famous photos is one where she holds a frame to her face that hides all but one eye, as well as another of her gazing into a mirror with only one eye visible.   When her looks faded, she shut herself into her apartment, removed all the mirrors, and draped the walls in black, leaving only at night wearing a heavy veil.  The new york times did an article on her photographs here:

    • Anonymous

      That is an amazing history. Thank you!

    • Anonymous
    • Urban Gypsy aka Tess

      Wow, thank you for that fascinating link. I even had to dig further and came up with this site which has several photos – – scroll through, they’re quite something.

  • MilaXX

    I don’t understand the cover. The first two pics do indeed have the crazy eye, but the last two are pretty good.

  • Anonymous

    I am almost as tired of Nicki as I am of Beyonce, and that crazy looks is something she does entirely too often. But I think the photography is nice.

  • Anonymous

    I think the crazy eyes are meant to evoke a certain hollow-eyed Barbie look. If so, they’re working.

  • Anonymous

    So tired of Nicki’s wide-eyed Barbie doll gaze.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty girl and you can especially see it in the last photo where her eyes aren’t looking so crazy. I know she likes to do the loco eyes thing but why do it in every single shot? Other than that it’s kinda cool.

  • Anonymous

    shes clearly trying to make the psycho-gaze her trademark, but i wish she would move on. it wasnt all that great to begin with, and now its actually ruining an otherwise very fabulous editorial.

  • Anonymous

    Nope, not for me.  

  •!/Space_Kitty Space Kitty

    I love the concept, but either the Marquise de Pompadour or Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov should have been the cover.  And not to put too fine a point on it, but isn’t her natural skin tone a bit darker than shown here?

  • Ali

    I love the concept – very interesting. Unfortunately, the crazy eyes keep making me think that Nicki is playing the lead in Wide Sargasso Sea.

  • Anonymous

    Well. I like the wild-eyed look. It’s a weird world to land in, isn’t it? So why not? It’s almost a wink at the audience;” yes, you know I’m dressing up to see if I can shock you, and YOU know I’m going to pull something out to try to shock you, and you’re going to pretend you’re NOT shocked and I? I’m going to sit here and pretend it’s all crazy. ‘Cause it is, just a bit, but not in the way you’d think. ” I love the photos, love the costumes, and hey…while everyone else is claiming to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra and Marilyn Monroe, I think I’ll lay claim to Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakov…why not?

  • MandyM

    She’s super-freaky, yow!

  • Anonymous

    “We don’t know what the hell that thing is supposed to be on the cover, and we don’t understand why she’s giving the same crazy, wild-eyed look in every picture.”

    hear, hear – that cover is giving me the heebie-jeebies

  • Fifi LaRoux

    She looks amazing in the last photo.

    Love the crazy eyes! Haha.

  • Anonymous

    Some of the photos look like something out of a comic book (the first one, for example). Makes the whole set campy and a little sad. The last one is beautiful, however.

    • Anonymous

      The original paintings are almost absurdly campy themselves, I think that;s the point.

  • Anonymous

    Her crazy eyes cheapen the entire thing. It’s a shame. 

  • Anonymous

    She does look a little bit nutty with the crazy eye! (makes me think of “The New Guy” LOL).

    At first glance (bear in mind I’m a Regretsy regular, too), that blue thing on the cover looks like some sort of sculpted bajingo pendant.  You know, empowering with the lady parts and whatever.  We’ve had a green one featured over there, so blue wouldn’t be out of the question LMAO.

    But why anyone would want that, and why it would be on the cover, and why (oh WHY) it would be coming out of her eye…well hell, that’s anybody’s guess.  And that all assumes it IS a bajingo woman-empowering pendant.  WTF???

    • Anonymous

      Yes. I also thought it was a ‘bajingo pendant’ at first. But on its side it’s an eye.

  • elzatelzabelz

    What an amazing editorial. The last picture is my favorite; so different from the Nicki Manaj we normally see.

  • Anonymous

    These look so half-assed and cheap. Bad photographer, bad!

  • Anonymous

    These look so half-assed and cheap. Bad photographer, bad!

  • Kelley Comfort

    Liked the last two best. In the first two, her eyes ruined the look.

  • Anonymous

    My best friend is in absolute love with Nicki Minaj. I find her a little bit terrifying.

  • Megan Patterson

    I would like it if her face weren’t so cray-cray. BUT she looks ah-mazing in that last one.

  • Anonymous

    So tacky. And it could have been so amazing. 

  • { edi } ilovetrash

    i think what the thing on the cover is supposed to be is an exaggerated eye miniature.
    {as an aside, her whole website is amazing– not just the eye miniature section.}
    otoh: why they’re leading it from her eye w/ frankenstinian blood-stitches i have no idea, unless it’s to up the edge-quotient [EQ] since it’s nicki minaj on hallowe’en, no less.

    • Anonymous

      I love the link. I was also thinking that there may be a Dali reference. The bug eye pose is very Dali, and I know he has painted himself into the Mona Lisa, and made crying eye jewelry as well.

  • RocknLox

    Omg… Nicki is gorgeous. 

  • Kiltdntiltd

    Okay so the crazy eyes are buggin’ me.  Like,.. a lot!  And for a fashion editorial using a costume from Western Costume is kinda lame.  it was supposed to be about couture, right?  That said, some of the images are kinda wonderful.  I’m thinking of the Rimsky-Korsakov portrait in particular.

  • Jessica O’Connell

    Her facial expressions freak me out and they seem detached from the grace of the poses… It’s like her head was photoshopped onto a model’s body… It’s a striking idea, but I think her expressions kind of ruined it for me.

    • yuju ti

      AGREE!! Especially the last one (Madame Barbe de Rimsky-Korsakpv). The original is relax and elegant, but Nicki Minaj looks creepy and somewhat malicious to me, like a wicked witch cooking evil ideas in her head…….

  • Anonymous

    I think I’m more put off by her stiff poses than the crazy eyes.  The women in the paintings (esp. the first and last ones) look like they were captured in mid-gesture.  If Nicki had put some grace into her poses it would have worked better.  Cool idea, though.

  • Andrea Howland-Myers

    Nicki Minaj is such a stunning woman, but I agree she wrecks some of these with the facial expressions. I LOVE the last two, though

  • Anonymous

    These are gorgeous? Are you kidding me? This is the cheesiest, tackiest editorial I’ve seen in a long, long time. A marginally original idea, very badly executed. It’s joke-y and cartoonish. Minaj is clearly the wrong choice. She does not evoke any of the original paintings’ beauty, spirit, mood, etc. I can’t imagine why they published these shots once they saw them. The oval picture looks like some crap mall photograph that someone (with very bad taste) hung over their plastic-covered dining table. I feel like asking you to take this post down, it’s so offensive. i.e., stupid and ugly.

    • ecallaw

      I don’t fell quite as strongly about it as you do.  I like the idea behind it and think that Minaj theoretically could have been great here, but I just don’t think the execution panned out.  It does look cheap and tacky, and doesn’t evoke any of the emotions of the original works of art.

  • Anonymous

    She looks like paintings from Harry Potter or something. The spread actually is really beautiful but I cannot get past that weird thing hanging (?!) from her eye on the cover. What the hell?

  • Anonymous

    How to put this?  In a different setting, I think Nicki would no longer be in the running to become America’s Next Top Model.  Love the idea; can’t think of a thing she’s doing right in the photos.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with this. I like the styling and the clothes and the concept – but NM really lacks any sort of grace as a model. While the eyes are apparently intentional, the rest of her body language is really not in harmony with the concept either.

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting editorial, but I agree – I don’t understand the cray cray eyes in every photo.

  • Sara J Baxter

    Ultra-hate the way she’s posed in the second one (where she’s the Comtesse du Barry.) The way the dress is laying it looks like she either has her knees all splayed out or she’s just wide in a very strange way (which of course, she isn’t.) I get that part of the shoot is to show off the clothes, but some of the other shots showed them off much less than this one would have if they’d put her in a slightly more flattering pose.

  • Anonymous

    No. It looks like that carnival photo-op where you stick your head through a hole in a painting so it looks like you’re a farmer or a showgirl. Really bad, and looks like it took a lot of time and effort, which just makes it even worse.

  • Laura O’Gorman

    Dear god, she CANNOT model for the life of her. I’m fine with having a signature look but crazy eyes in every picture is like a joke someone repeats 5 times in a row. It gets old really fast.

  • Anonymous

    totally wrong person for the job

  • Stefanos Mantyla

    So is she actually photographed wearing these clothes, or is her face just pasted onto each portrait? I honestly cannot tell, especially with the second portrait.

    I just do not get this one.

  • Micaela Cannon

    Really love this! And thank you for pairing it up with the artwork, so we can put it all in place.

  • Anonymous

    Me likey…and my god is Nicki Minaj gorgeous.  Girl needs to tone down the drag and work the natural beauty

  • Anonymous

    Sorry. These look like fake haunted house portraits where the eyes follow your every move. Cheesy to the max. But she is a very striking woman under all the nonsense she usually sports.

  • Catherine Rhodes

    She is a ridiculous choice as model for these looks. The crazy eyes ruin the “arty” part of it and just push them into surreal land. She cannot give decent face to save her life.

  • Buffy

    It looks like she’s sticking her head through one of those cutout things you see at fairs.

  • Elizabeth Siegel

    hahaha she’s so funny

  • Leslie

    Just going to put it out there, why are all the powerful women in history white?

  • narita_rayna

    stunning. but wtf with the crazy face?

  • Anonymous

    They’re fuck’n awful. You all need to learn what good taste is.

  • Anonymous

    I like the last one. The others look a bit … uncanny.