Nicki Minaj’s eyeliner is a precision event, a marvel, as if drawn on by the kind of pre-programmed robot arm used for laparoscopic surgeries. It is a peacock navy color, dark and shiny and full, extending maybe a not-outrageous half centimeter up from the top lid, extending an additional still-not-crazy three centimeters outward past where her eyes end. Her eyelashes are even and delicate, like wisps from a dandelion, and I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen her without prosthetic versions. I have had plenty of time to search my memory, though, because here on this couch, in this room, during this interview, with me sitting next to her, Nicki Minaj has fallen asleep.
We are at Barclays Center in one of the dressing rooms, which are low, low beneath Brooklyn; most are named after streets and neighborhoods in the borough. During the rehearsals for Fashion Rocks, the New York Fashion Week concert fund-raiser, the halls were filled with publicists and escorts who had to pretend not to be dazzled by those they were escorting. Minaj had walked in a few minutes before, tiny next to her assistant and her muscle, wearing black sunglasses, a trucker hat cocked to the side, and a T-shirt with the periodic-table box for carbon. She had been led straight into the DeKalb dressing room, named for the street that bisects a couple of local neighborhoods now populated by yuppies but that still contain housing projects. Her smile is a warm sun. As is this room. The temperature in here has been set to about 300 degrees, at Nicki’s request. She says she gets cold a lot.