It was M.I.A.’s 2007 “Paper Planes” video—with the British firebrand
dancing around Brooklyn in an African-print jumpsuit and tiger-striped
high-tops—that first caught Versace’s attention. “Her music and style
seemed so fresh and innovative,” recalls the designer. Although M.I.A.
burst onto the scene in 2005 with her globe-trotting beats and rebel
politics, equally striking was her hyper-colored, multiculti look.
Before the shoot for this portrait, for instance, the 36-year-old
singer—who once cited Libyan President Moammar Qaddafi as a fashion icon
(“I’d love to raid his wardrobe,” she noted)—insisted on two-tone lips
and floral nail art, and wanted the tips of her platinum locks dyed a
vivid coral. As Versace puts it: “She is a total artist.”