An evening at Maison Persolaise. Two of our nieces (let's call them Miranda, 16, and Tilly, 12) have come over for a meal with their favourite aunty and uncle. We're in the kitchen, waiting for ovens, saucepans and steamers to finish doing their thing. At one point in the conversation, I remember I want to show them a certain item that arrived in the post the other day.
"Girls," I say, "would you like to see the classiest, most beautiful, most gorgeous perfume bottle ever made?"
Tilly smiles with genuine excitement. "Yes, please!"
Miranda shakes her head. "You're being sarcastic, right?"
"No," I say, "it really is classy."
"Yeah, whatever," says Miranda, "you're being sarcastic."
"No, he isn't!" her sister exclaims.
"Yes, he is, Till. It's obvious. You can tell."
"So you don't want to see this bottle, then?" I ask.
A few moments later, I'm back in the kitchen, holding a large, shiny, pink box. The images on its sides - depicting a woman with ample lips and even more ample cleavage - suggest this is an item which might belong in the sort of shop I sincerely hope my nieces have never frequented.
"Oh. My. God." Clearly, I've grabbed Miranda's attention. "Nicki Minaj???"
Tilly's expression is more worried than curious. "She's made a perfume?"
"We'll, she's had someone make it for her, yes," I say. "And its bottle is just... amazing."
"Yeah, right." Miranda is trying to maintain her look of unimpressed disdain, but the glint in her eyes betrays her eagerness to see more.
I open the box. "Are you ready?" I ask.
Miranda's smile grows wider. "This is gonna be really bad, isn't it?"
"Are you sure you'll be able to cope with the sheer beauty?"
"Oh. My. God. This is gonna be proper bad, isn't it??" Both of them are almost leaping off their seats with anticipation.
I whisk the bottle out of its packaging and place it on the table before them. Less than a second later, their faces are pictures of stunned incredulity: mouths agape, eyebrows raised, lids blinking.
Miranda is the first to speak. "Are you having a laugh?" She grabs the bottle and subjects it to a close examination.
In simple terms, it is a horrific bust of Minaj herself. But simple terms don't express the depth of the horror it conveys. Its wig is composed of hard, pastel-pink plastic. Its face is a frightening, faux-gold death mask, like a rejected design from Tutankhamen Meets The Terminator. Its breasts are surrounded by inexplicable, blue curves, forming a bizarre, pseudo-sexual crop circle. And as a pièce de résistance, it bears a necklace: a thin sliver of metal fashioned in the shape of the artiste's name. In short, it redefines tackiness and transports it to such new lows, it almost comes out at the other end as genius. Almost.
Miranda keeps turning it over and over in her hands. "Is this for real?"
"And people are actually going to buy this?"
"Well, apparently, the night before it came out, a few people camped outside Selfridges from 9 o'clock, to make sure they were the first to get their hands on it."
Tilly finds her voice: "Nutters."
"Maybe they're just big fans," I say, ever the diplomat.
"Yeah," Miranda nods, "or maybe they're nutters."
"Would you camp out to be first to buy the One Direction perfume?" I ask.
An awkward silence descends for a few seconds. Then Tilly thinks of a way to re-route the conversation. "I want to smell it," she says, snatching the bottle from her sister.
"Err... you might want to be careful..." I advise, not quite able to keep the anxiety from my voice.
Tilly covers her wrist with two, confident sprays. Miranda grabs the bottle back and releases a dose onto her own skin. For a few moments, they sit and smell and think.
"It's apple," Miranda says. "It's just a cheap apple. Like a gummy sweet."
Tilly's face is creased with consternation. "I don't understand," she says. "Are all these perfumes from famous people actually the same? Do they really just take the same thing and pour it into different bottles?"
"It does feel like that sometimes, doesn't it?" I answer, reaching for the bottle, so as to prevent any further emanations.
"Oh. My. God!" Miranda's voice causes the saucepans to rattle. "I'm getting vom." She sniffs her wrist. "Pure vom."
"Miranda!" I exclaim.
"No seriously," she takes another sniff, "total vom. And I'm not even being funny."
"What's 'vom'?" asks Tilly.
"Vomit, you little gremlin!"
"Miranda, please!" I yell.
"Urrrgghh," Tilly cries out, bringing her wrist back to her nose. "What sort of vom?"
"I don't know," Miranda takes another sniff, "but it's really bad," and another, "like seriously proper bad," and another.
"Okay, I think we've had enough of this." I thrust the bottle back in the box. "Time to concentrate on the cooking."
And that, dear readers, was the reaction of The Youth to Minaj's foray into the world of fragrance. What did your intrepid scent critic make of the stuff? Well, you'll be relieved to learn that I didn't get any vom. But then, if I had, at least I would've been compelled to state that the perfume displays a modicum of originality. Sans vom, it is the very definition of the scourge of modern perfumery: a characterless, musky, fruity, patchouli.
Having said that, I'm sure it'll do well. Because even I, with my contempt for such creations, have been unable to resist showing the bottle to every single person who has entered our home over the last fortnight or so. They've all found it hideous. That almost goes without saying. But the crucial point is that they've all seen it and been made aware of it. This is how, eventually, a vast swathe of the world will get to know about Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday. And if even a small fraction of that swathe actually buys the scent, she'll have a gigantic hit on her hands. Sadly, c'est la vie en rose.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Nicki Minaj in 2013.]