In a manicured cul-de-sac in LA’s Baldwin Hills, Nicki Minaj’s matte black Maybach lurks in the shimmering heat – doors flung open to let the still air circulate and privacy curtains pulled back. The $500,000 car cuts an imposing silhouette against the mid-century home where its owner is posing for today’s shoot. In the driveway, her personal chauffeur, bodyguard and day-to-day manager keep watch, hovering patiently while Minaj acts the suburban housewife inside.
Ripping off yellow rubber gloves in order to slip into a Balmain two-piece, Minaj insists the scenario isn’t quite the American daydream that it seems. “I’m in a surreal world, but I’m so normal in it,” she says, striding across the yard in gold Giuseppe Zanotti heels. “Most people that I know in the industry have maids, housekeepers, ten bodyguards and a masseuse with them at all times. Everyone around me is like, ‘You’re so much more low-key than I thought!’ But I don’t like going out, I don’t like crowds, I don’t like clubs. If I do have downtime, I prefer to be in the house cooking West Indian food and watching my DVR.”
After a few hours of tense outfit changes, the 31-year-old heads back to her trailer to unwind after a day playing a hyperreal homemaker. In person, she has a presence that belies her tiny 5’2” frame, giving off a vibe of steely authority that hums louder than the trailer’s aircon. Curled up on a paisley couch, brushing out her demure Veronica Lake waves, Minaj says she has every intention to “stop what I’m doing and be a mother and wife. But not yet.” Before she can settle down to a life of quiet domesticity, Minaj wants to release five albums in total. “I have to make 500 million dollars first,” she says. “That figure has been in my brain for a long time. I want to be the female who earned the same amount of money that the Jay Zs and the Puffys were able to earn. I feel like when I reach my 500-million-dollar goal” – she pauses to cackle at the Monopoly-money sum, teeth bared – “then no other woman in rap will ever feel like they can’t do what these men have done.”