Terrence Davidson, former employee of, and hairstylist to, performer Nicki Minaj, claims that the rapper used his wig designs without his consent in several of her own projects, including both her own wig line and her fragrance line. Davidson has filed a lawsuit against Minaj, suing her for $30 million for her use of his designs. The question that comes to mind here is: is it really plagiarism for an artist to use iconic styles designed by someone else in their other business ventures?
For Nicki Minaj, wild, extravagant hair has been a very important part of her image since her Pink Friday album. In none of her music videos or live performances does she appear with her natural hair. The wigs she has worn have become synonymous with her image, thus using the designs from her more popular hairstyles as uniquely recognizable pieces in other products, for example, the toppers to the bottles in her fragrance line, would make a lot of sense.
On the other hand, Davidson’s work is an art. He is an artist and his medium is hair. The copyright of a work of art belongs implicitly to the creator of that work, whether the work is a painting, a song, a sculpture, or even a wig. During the time that he worked for Nicki Minaj between 2010 and 2013, Davidson created several of Minaj’s most iconic wigs, including her bubble-gum pink beehive style and her long, multicolored leopard-print style seen at the VMAs.
Because copyright belongs to a work’s creator, not the person who popularizes the work, it seems that Nicki Minaj may have a case of plagiarism on her hands with her wig and fragrance lines. The problem here is that Davidson was hired to design and create these hairstyles for Nicki Minaj personally, and it is not exactly clear whether the copyright remains with him or if it was never his to begin with. No information has been released with regards to Davidson’s contract with Minaj – if one indeed exists – so until the case goes to trial there may not be any way to know if he signed away his rights to the designs he created or if he still has grounds to sue for their perceived wrongful use.
Further cause for the legal action appears to be the way Nicki Minaj and her team treated Davidson towards the end of his employment under the Super Bass singer; allegedly, he was being considered as a costar to Minaj in a reality show, as well as a partner in her upcoming wig line. However, the rapper’s team supposedly slowly began to phase Davidson out, becoming quiet about any of the aforementioned plans. One of Minaj’s representatives reportedly even turned down an interview with the New York Times about the lavish wigs that have become the singer’s signature on his behalf without actually informing him of the interview in the first place.
With this information taken into account, it really does seem like Nicki Minaj and her team worked to remove Terrence Davidson from the picture before moving forward with any of his designs. Nicki Minaj, whether active in this plot or not, may very well have plagiarized the designs used in her wig line. It will be interesting for the future if the case goes to trial, as it will be able to help draw a line between what aspects of one’s image a performer is entitled to when the image is collaborated on by several parties.
Opinion By Robin Syrenne