It’s really not a surprise that cuteness is the preferred design characteristic of super-commodity merchandise and is therefore the chief brand aesthetic of multinational mega-corporations like the Disney media empire and the Mattel toy company. The predominance of soft rounded plastics makes it so. Known for their pop culture icons, Mickey and Barbie, you’d be hard pressed to come up with examples of more successful and durable branding.
And along comes cute hip-hopper, Nicki Minaj fashioning herself as a Japanese street Barbie. Her name both rhymes and alliterates with Mickey’s. I think she’s brilliant.
Toys can have different characteristics and don’t always have to be cute, per se. Toys can be quaint like wooden blocks or like cloth teddy bears or Raggedy Ann & Andie. Different kinds of toys definitely have different auras. What I’m talking about in terms of Minaj is a plastic aurality, bereft of all sentimental value, simultaneously stripped and sealed. Not only does Minaj perform the strip/tease, but she does so through offering herself up as a sealed object — almost hermetically so. And in true hip-hop tradition, she’s the first to brag about how airtight her entourage is.
Her über lavish lamé and latex costuming makes her seem impossible to undress. Just go ahead and try and get her out of her clothes. She’s tightly corseted, though nothing like a genteel Victorian. She’s walking around literally sheathed in rubber, her gear is like… well, like a condom. Her stylized plasticity seems to be almost hygienically engineered. The overly shellacked make-up and wigs seal the deal. (Get it? seal the deal? like sealed… oh never mind.) It seems like whatever they try to hurl, spit, or squirt at her, it just instantly wipes off. All antibacterial and whatnot.
Yep. Nicki Minaj is pretty much awesome.